Between Winter and Spring in Leadville
Residents are reminded to spring their clocks forward one hour, initiating Daylight Savings Time which officially begins at 2 a.m. Sunday morning, March 14. The good news is that darkness falls one hour later, and that is generally okay with most Leadvillites.
Of course, the other eye-to-the-skies news is the pending “winter storm warning” being issued by weather forecasters, with strong travel advisories being issued from the Colorado Department of Transportation. The next 36 hours will tell how much snow comes to Leadville Today. Regardless some parts of the state are bound to be heavily impacted, so travelers are encouraged to stay informed with the most #uptptheminute news and real-time conditions of the CDOT app at cotrip.org.
In addition to CDOT’s highway concerns, come strong warnings from the Colorado Avalanche Information Center (CAIC) for backcountry users, as rescue crews continue to work missions helping people that don’t seem to be getting the “stay-out-of-the-backcountry” message until its safe message.
Avalanche Conditions to Increase Dramatically
By Bo Torrey, CAIC.
The following report was issued at 7:46 a.m. on March 13 for the Sawatch Range, which includes Leadville and Lake County:
The danger will rise today and through the next few days as a storm impacts the area. You can trigger avalanches on upper elevation slopes facing west through north through northeast where winds drift snow into slabs. You can visually identify slopes with potential wind slabs by looking for changes in the surface texture, or hardness, or features that appear rounded and pillowy.
Avalanches breaking on deep weak layers remain a remote possibility. Spots, where the snowpack is shallow, are the kinds of areas these monsters could be triggered. Shallow spots near ridgelines, rocky outcrops, or the bottoms of slopes where the slab tapers are the kinds of places to avoid.
The small storm on Wednesday deposited 2-10 inches of snow throughout the Central Mountains. Favored areas in the Gunnison and Aspen zones that saw higher snow totals are where you can still trigger shallow Wind Slab avalanches. Most avalanches will be small and only found in isolated areas but with Low avalanche danger, people tend to head towards bigger and steeper terrain. Don’t let your guard down. Be vigilant with your terrain assessment. Look for small pockets of wind slabs to avoid throughout your travels both uphill and downhill. Even a small avalanche in high consequence terrain could be fatal. You can stack the odds in your favor by sticking to lower consequence terrain. Choose planar slopes with a clean runout, without trees, cliffs, or other terrain traps below, and only expose one person to avalanches at a time.
It’s been 2 weeks since an avalanche failed on the faceted snow and depth hoar near the ground, and although the previous weeks of warm and relatively dry weather helped the snowpack adjust, the overall snowpack structure remains unchanged. The old head of snow safety at Alta Ski Area, Titus Case always said “If the structure exists, it can happen.” There is a reason we haven’t pulled the problem from the list and even though it’s become unlikely a rider could trigger the avalanche it’s still something we should all be considering in our risk management strategy. Persistent weak layers are notorious for prolonged periods of dormancy that then suddenly become reawakened by minor loading events just as we start to think it’s no longer a problem.
A significant winter storm will enter the area late tonight through the weekend. Expect changing avalanche conditions and the potential for our deeply buried persistent slab to reawaken. Continue to check the avalanche forecast each morning before you head out as conditions may change quickly. Winter ain’t over yet.
Neighboring Conditions: Vail & Summit
By Kreston Rohrig, CAIC (7:38 a.m., Sat, March 13)
The avalanche danger will quickly rise as a powerful winter storm ramps up throughout the day. With easterly winds, expect to find drifted snow in unusual places. North to west-facing slopes at higher elevation will build small slabs that could take you for a ride as fresh snow accumulates.
This storm’s timing and total snowfall have been hard to pin down, but expect periods of heavy snowfall later this evening through tonight and close to a foot or more on the ground by tomorrow. There might be some lingering pockets of old snow to worry about today on steeper slopes, but plan for changing conditions. New snow issues will be the primary focus for triggering avalanches but may also cause failures deeper in the snowpack in heavy hit areas.
This storm has been getting a lot of attention, and rightfully so. Forecast models have been all over the place for the past few days, but even if we don’t see 6 feet of snow, most places in the north will likely get close to a foot or more. Big upslope events that pull moisture from the Gulf of Mexico can be very surprising and dump huge loads of snow in a short amount of time. Time will tell how this storm shakes out, but we should all plan for a wet and wild ride. The Front Range will do well, and no matter if it’s 2 or 3 or more feet, the danger will rise quickly (to HIGH level 4 by tonight), and most slopes will be dangerous. Further west of the divide is more of a crapshoot. I’m guessing many areas will see up to a foot of new snow, with localized favored spots creeping towards 2 feet.
Bottom line, there will be many hazards and adverse conditions to manage this weekend on top of some very nasty roadways. Adding to the mix easterly winds, which are uncommon, and we could see avalanches on all sorts of aspects. Plan for changing conditions today and look to bail off slopes as accumulations top 8 to 10 inches of new or drifted snow. The danger was LOW (level 1) yesterday and will be until the snow flies.
Veterans Memorial Inscription Deadline: March 31
It might seem a little out of the ordinary to be talking about Memorial Day in the middle of March, but there’s good reason for it. March 31 is the deadline to submit an application for engraving on the memorial in order to be complete by the 2017 Memorial Day Weekend Services.
This is an opportunity to honor those who served with a name engraving on the Lake County Veterans Memorial granite plaque. Families from Leadville, Lake County and across the United States can add the name of any veteran deceased or living to the south plaque.
In order to have the plaque readied by Memorial Day 2017, applications and fees ($75 per name) must be received by March 31, 2017. Please consider an engraving or a simple, straight-up donation by contacting Mabel Bogeart at 719-486-0259 or mailing a check to Lake County Veteran Memorial, PO Box 952, Leadville, CO 80461. To download an application: CLICK.
Ski Joring, Loppet 2021 Results
In 21st century Leadville Today, a virtual event deserves a virtual report as the 73rd annual Leadville Ski Joring competition took place in America’s highest city last weekend, March 6 – 7. With a sport that has seen a near three-quarter century legacy in Lake County, would it return? And if so, what would it look like? Would elected officials loosen the reins on public gatherings for the sake of economic recovery? Those questions and another championship event is now #inthebooks. Here are the results for Leadville Ski Joring 2021 as provided by LSJ organizer Duffy Counsell, who added. “What a blast – thanks weather, thanks volunteers, thanks amazing Community coming together to make it all happen. Humbled.”
In other winter sports news, volunteers for The Leadville Loppet, which is the primary fundraiser for the Mineral Belt Trail, reported that 120 participants raised $4,250 for the annual event which was held virtually throughout the month of February. “Thank you to everyone who participated in the virtual Leadville Loppet this year! We missed seeing you all but are so grateful for all of the support!”