Backcountry Conditions and Snow Forecast
More Snow, Followed by Bluebird Weekend
The weather will take center stage over the next couple of days as a series of weak, low-pressure winter storms move across Colorado, leaving just enough snow on the roads to wreak some havoc. For Lake County and Leadville Today, a majority of snow will likely be seen today – up to 5 fresh inches in town – and then slowly taper off throughout the remainder of the week with a bluebird weekend in the long-range forecast for the first weekend in February.
It’s a good time to check in with the Colorado Avalanche Information Center (CAIC) as the team updated their local data early this morning. Here’s that report.
Backcountry Forecast: Sawatch Range
by Ben Pritchet, CAIC. Wed, Jan 29, 2020 at 6:54 AM
You can still trigger a large slab avalanche that could break 1 to 3 feet deep on buried weak layers. Once in motion, some of these avalanches could gouge down to the ground. The most suspect slopes face north to east to south, where recent winds drifted snow into thick and dense slabs.
Since these slabs have laid in place for days without a significant new load, they may be difficult to trigger and may not offer any warning signs like cracking or collapsing before avalanching. Don’t get lulled into a false sense of security – if you happen upon the wrong spot on the slope and do trigger one of these lurking beasts, the resulting avalanche could be consequential.
If you feel a dense snow surface, or a see surface textures that look smooth or like a rounded pillow, possibly below a freshly formed cornice or adjacent to a wind-scoured area, consider your options. Look for ways to avoid traveling on or directly beneath these previously wind-loaded slopes. Wind sheltered and below treeline areas are safer places to ride.
Central Mountains: Weather Discussion
by Mike Cooperstein, CAIC
Clouds increase on Wednesday ahead of an approaching low-pressure trough. Light snowfall is expected throughout the day with accumulations of 1 to 4 inches possible by Thursday morning. Some models are showing a brief period of enhanced snowfall around Wolf Creek Pass on Wednesday afternoon and night, but even areas around Wolf Creek Pass will only see 4 to maybe 6 inches of total accumulations. West to northwest winds remain relatively calm on Wednesday and Wednesday night.
We see a brief break in the snow showers on Thursday morning before another weak disturbance moves through the area on Thursday afternoon. Snowfall favors the Northern and Central Mountains late in the day on Thursday. We see an uptick in wind speeds on Thursday afternoon as the disturbance passes. One to three inches of new snow accumulations are possible by nightfall on Thursday.
Avalanche Forecast Discussion
by Mike Cooperstein, CAIC
CAIC forecasters working in the east side of the Aspen zone on Monday found a very weak very scary snowpack. They were easily able to get weak layers buried less than a meter deep to fail and propagate in snowpack tests. They also got propagating fractures at the top of the old, rounding, depth hoar layer. These conditions are not isolated to the Aspen zone by any means. across the Central Mountains easterly-facing slopes tend to be the easiest place to trigger avalanches on these mid-pack and basal weak layers. In areas where the snowpack is more shallow the weak layers are closer to the surface making them easier to trigger. Avalanches on persistent weak layers like these do not go away quickly and avalanche they can also surprise you when they break. It is not uncommon to see previous tracks on a slope and then have the 5 or 6th rider trigger the entire slope.
Very careful snowpack evaluation is necessary when there are persistent weak layers buried close to the surface. If you don’t feel comfortable assessing the snowpack for these tricky weak layers avoidance is the answer. You can always stay safe by sticking to lower angle terrain.
CDOT Mitigation Work on Fremont
Yesterday, January 28 the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) crews spent the morning conducting avalanche mitigation work on Fremont Pass, forcing the closure of Highway 91 for about a half-hour, starting at 0930.
While no official notification was distributed by the highway department, the crews made quick work of the task after the morning skier and commuter traffic had already seen the worst of it.
In other road news, remember that CDOT will also be conducting periodic traffic holds from Monday through Thursday on Interstate 70 for rockfall mitigation work. Motorists can expect delays between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m in both directions between mile markers 236.5-235.5. also known as the stretch between Georgetown and Idaho Springs.
Number One Priority on the #2 List
According to a Public Notice distributed by The City of Leadville on January 28, The Zaitz Park bathrooms located on Harrison Ave. between 6th and 7th Streets have a plumbing issue and are temporarily closed. Crews are working on solving the problem and will have a better idea tomorrow of what the issues are. Thank you for your patience as they work to solve the problem.