Happy Spring from Leadville Today!
Spring Means SNOW at 10,200′
“It’s crazy to think that last year at this time, the lifts had stopped spinning and Cooper was closed for the season. This year we have the gift of a longer season!” said Dana Johnson, Cooper’s Director of Marketing & Sales, referring to the unusual 2020-2021 season for Leadville’s ski hill. Since then, the tourist destination and local winter playground launched a mindful approach to local public health restrictions, incorporating a plethora of new procedures and protocols from traffic flow to food and beverage offerings and set up to online reservations for slope time.
But with the pandemic light-at-the-end of the tunnel appearing to grow brighter each day, people will begin to move about more frequently. For skiers and borders that means some of the high country’s best snow can still be enjoyed in the days and weeks ahead. Hope does spring eternal, for outdoor recreation! So whether it’s powder days or blue-skies you are looking for, there are plenty of both ahead during March & April. There is almost a month left of the season.
“We look forward to seeing you over the next 4+ weeks out enjoying this great snow base. See you on the slopes!” said Johnson. Come get your use out of your season pass or purchase a discounted Day Pass online at www.skicooper.com. Enjoy these longer, milder days of Spring at Cooper, open 7 days a week through April 18!
And perhaps the even better news is that Mother Nature has a consistent series of snowstorms planned for the week ahead. Today, the forecast looks likes spring but for the rest of the week, residents and visitors can expect to see snow every day this week! It’s Springtime in the Rockies!
For the outdoor adventurers who prefer the backcountry solitude, it’s always a good measure to check conditions before making you plans. Conditions change fast and with wet conditions dominating today’s forecast, the upcoming snowstorms forecasted this week will change the story EVERY DAY. It’s time to check in with the avalanche experts with their latest report.
Backcountry Conditions to Change Daily
by Bo Torrey, Colorado Avalanche Information Center (CAIC) Sat, Mar 20, 2021 at 7:07 a.m.
There are 2 main problems to focus your attention on today. The first is wet snow avalanches. As temperatures rise and the surface crusts break down another round of loose wet avalanches will be on tap. Low elevation slopes saw a shallow refreeze and will be the first to warm up today. Temperatures will be warm enough to see wet conditions impact northerly-facing slopes. When snow surfaces become wet and lose cohesion avoid slopes steeper than 35 degrees. Fortunately, Mother Nature gives clear signs when wet avalanche activity is imminent: roller balls and slushy surface conditions mean it’s time to exit avalanche terrain or move to colder, shadier slopes.
The second problem is the Persistent Slab. In the last week observers reported a couple of small, isolated, remotely-triggered avalanches on this layer in the Gunnison and Aspen zone. On Thursday, a skier triggered a thin but wide slab on a north-facing slope near treeline close to Kebler Pass on Mt. Axtell. On Friday, a snowmobiler triggered another large avalanche near Napoleon Pass that likely failed on faceted snow closer to the ground.
This is evidence that the recipe needed to trigger avalanches exists in isolated areas. The most concerning slopes are where the snowpack is generally thinner or slopes that previously avalanched in February and now have a cohesive slab 1 to 2 feet thick. The slabs are thin enough that riders can impact the weak layer and trigger avalanches where they find this combination. The safest approach is to avoid thinner snowpack areas and slopes that previously avalanched in February or anywhere you find a cohesive slab over weak snow. It’s a good idea to get your shovel out, dig down and investigate the snowpack layering for a slab and weak layer combination.
The Wet Ones: What You Need to Know
Brought to you by CAIC. Loose, wet avalanches occur when water is running through the snowpack, and release at or below the trigger point. Avoid very steep slopes and terrain traps such as cliffs, gullies, or tree wells. Exit avalanche terrain when you see pinwheels, roller balls, a slushy surface, or during rain-on-snow events.
As daytime temperatures rise, you can trigger avalanches on all aspects below treeline and on slopes facing east through south through west near treeline. Avoid all slopes where you find wet or unsupportive snow. Most loose wet avalanches will be small but can pack a punch as they build up mass in steep terrain.
Avalanches breaking on weak layers remain a remote possibility. Slopes that previously avalanched or where the snowpack is thin, are the kinds of areas these avalanches could be triggered. Shallow spots near rocky outcrops, slope convexities, or the bottoms of slopes where the slab tapers are features to avoid.
Beacon Park Open for Training
The White River National Forest’s new beacon training park outside Minturn gives the public an easily accessible opportunity to practice using avalanche transceivers, a critical piece of safety equipment for winter backcountry recreation.
“Record numbers of people venturing into the backcountry, and the need for winter backcountry safety education is higher than ever,” said Eagle-Holy Cross District Ranger Leanne Veldhuis. “Avalanche transceivers are key to finding avalanche victims as soon as possible, but they are only effective if people know how to use them.”
The park, which was developed in partnership with the Colorado Avalanche Information Center, consists of eight buried transmitters that can be turned on and off from a small control panel. This allows for multiple search scenarios to familiarize people with using their avalanche transceivers and probing the snow for victims. It’s a self-operating system open all day to the public.
“Beacon parks have traditionally been located at ski areas, where general public access may be limited to pass holders,” Veldhuis said. “This accessible public location should help encourage more people to become proficient using avalanche transceivers, which can help save lives.”
While avalanche transceivers are important if someone becomes buried in an avalanche, avoiding avalanches in the first place is the best strategy. Before heading into the backcountry, check the avalanche forecast.
The Historic 2019 Avalanche Season
In case you missed it, Dr. Ethan Greene, Director of the Colorado Avalanche Information Center presents information about the historic 2019 avalanche season in Colorado.
About the CAIC
The Colorado Avalanche Information Center (CAIC) is a program within the Colorado Department of Natural Resources, Executive Director’s Office. The program is a partnership between the Department of Natural Resources (DNR), the Department of Transportation (CDOT), and the Friends of the CAIC (FoCAIC) a 501c3 group. The mission of the CAIC is to provide avalanche information, education, and promote research for the protection of life, property, and the enhancement of the state’s economy.
The History of CAIC
Since 1950 avalanches have killed more people in Colorado than any other natural hazard, and in the United States, Colorado accounts for one-third of all avalanche deaths. The Colorado Avalanche Warning Center began issuing public avalanche forecasts in 1973 as part of a research program in the USDA-Forest Service Rocky Mountain Research Station. The program moved out of the federal government and into the Colorado state government, becoming part of the Department of Natural Resources in 1983. The CAIC joined the Colorado Department of Transportation’s highway safety program in 1993. The Friends of the CAIC (a 501c3 group) formed in 2007 to promote avalanche safety in Colorado and support the recreation program of the CAIC.
Funding for CAIC: How To Donate
About half of the CAIC’s funding comes from an intergovernmental agreement with CDOT to provide training and forecasting for highway maintenance operations. As part of the Department of Natural Resources, close to 40% of the Center’s funding comes from the Severance Tax Fund. The rest of the funding to run the program comes from the United States Forest Service, local governments, the Friends of the CAIC, and donations from people like you. CLICK HERE to Donate.