Avalanche danger at Moderate after overnight storm deposits multiple inches
CAIC recommends avoiding slopes with more than 8 inches of snow
Many Grand County residents woke up to a winter wonderland Sunday morning after Middle Park received its first significant snowfall in nearly two full weeks.
Winter Park Resort on the southeastern end of the county tallied six inches of snowfall over Saturday night and into Sunday morning while Granby Ranch’s website showed four inches of snowfall in the last 24 hours. The town itself saw a bit less at around three-and-a-half inches.
Sections of Grand County’s north end saw comparatively light snowfall Saturday night. SNOTEL site data from the National Resource Conservation Service shows two inches of snow falling at the NRCS’s Stillwater Creek site, located up County Road 4 past the Idleglen Staging Area at an elevation a bit over 8,700 feet. A bit further east and just west of the Kawanechee Valley sits the NRCS’s SNOTEL site for the Never Summer Range. Even at 10,280 feet the remote Never Summer site recorded four inches of snow from it’s location in the Jack Creek drainage.
The Kawuneeche Valley in Rocky Mountain National Park got a bigger dose of winter. The Phantom Valley SNOTEL site near the Colorado River Trailhead recorded five inches of overnight snowfall; the same amount as was recorded high above the valley at the Willow Park site, on Old Fall River Road not far from the Alpine Visitor Center.
The Jones Pass SNOTEL site, located just over the Continental Divide on the Grand County side of the pass, tallied five inches of snowfall at 10,400. Overnight snowfall data for the Berthoud Summit SNOTEL site was not available as of press time.
Looking to the northwest, Rabbit Ears Pass saw the largest overnight snowfall with six inches falling at that passes SNOTEL site, located at 9,400. Lower down and further east the Muddy Pass area came in at three inches at an elevation of 9,160 feet. SNOTEL sites north of Kremmling, near Red Dirt Reservoir and in the Chimney Rock area, saw overnight snowfall of two inches.
The snowfall has avalanche forecasters in the state offering modestly cautious slide predictions for both the Front Range and Summit County forecast zones. Both zones have a “Moderate” avalanche forecast for all aspects Sunday while northwest of Grand County the Steamboat Springs forecast zone has an avalanche forecast of “Considerable” on all aspects.
The summary from the Colorado Avalanche Information Center notes that last night’s storm deposited roughly four to eight inches throughout the area and adds the snowfall was accompanied by “moderate to strong west winds”.
“Avalanches breaking on buried weak layers are more likely today as a result,” states the forecaste from the CAIC. “The most dangerous slopes face north through east at higher elevations, where storm winds drifted deeper slabs of snow.”
The summary goes on to state, “Lee-facing terrain features, cross-loaded gullies, and exposed slopes just below ridgetops could be particularly sensitive today.”
The CAIC recommends that anyone venturing into the backcountry avoid slopes with more than eight inches of recent or wind-drifted snow.
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