Avalanche Conditions Near Saguache Today
By Ethan Greene, Colorado Avalanche Information Center (CAIC)
Saturday’s storm took longer to reach the Southern Mountains than expected. The avalanche danger was slow to rise on Saturday, Nov. 24 but probably caught up as snowfall rates increased in the late afternoon and strong winds continued to blow overnight. Three-day totals in the North San Juan zone are: 5″ on Lizard Head Pass, 12″ around Telluride, 14″ on Red Mountain Pass, and 5″ on Slumgullion Pass. In the South San Juan zone: 8″ on Molas and Coal Bank Passes, and 7″ on Wolf Creek Pass.
Snow totals in the Sangre de Cristo Range are sparse with only a few inches recorded at below treeline sites. Wind-loading is likely the biggest issue today. Wind speeds were fairly sustained in the 15 to 30 mph range in the Northern San Juan zone during the two events, with much higher gusts. Overnight there was a significant period with winds from the north and northeast. With winds coming from the southwest, northwest, north, and northeast over the last few days, there will be recent wind slabs on lots of little terrain features. I highlighted north, northeast, east, southeast, and south as most of the new wind pillows will be on these aspects.
The spike in avalanche danger is probably much less across the Southern San Juan and Sangre de Cristo zones. There are a few reports from above treeline areas, and there was enough snow and wind to increase the avalanche danger. The avalanche danger has been reduced to LOW(Level 1) in near treeline areas to account for the modest snow accumulations and lack of avalanche activity.
With time, decreasing wind speeds, and no precipitation, the avalanche danger will slowly decrease across the entire Southern Mountain region. The danger from Persistent Slab avalanches will also decrease, but much slower than the storm instabilities. Make sure to think about where the old snow is resting under the snow that fell or drifted over the last few days. Triggering avalanches on steep shady slopes, especially with recent drifts, is a problem that won’t go away anytime soon.
Late November Conditions on Monarch Pass
The CAIC Backcountry Avalanche Forecast for The Sangre de Cristo Range
You can trigger dangerous avalanches above treeline today. A few inches of new snow and strong winds built stiff slabs in alpine areas. These new wind drifts will be most common on slopes that face northeast, east, and southeast. Look for and avoid any areas where you find warning signs of an unstable snowpack such as shooting cracks in drifted snow.
If you trigger an avalanche in wind-drifted snow the avalanche could step down to weak layers near the ground resulting in a larger, more dangerous avalanche. This is particularly true on northeast and east-facing slopes where the two avalanche problems overlap.
How to Support CAIC
The Friends of CAIC are hosting the 11th Annual CAIC Benefit Bash on Dec. 1, 2018, at the Riverwalk Center in Breckenridge as we come together to support the CAIC in their continued efforts in avalanche forecasting and education throughout Colorado. This winter’s party will feature great music from Rapidgrass, incredible beer from Breckenridge Brewery and the members of Summit County’s United Brewer’s Association (SCUBA), and dinner provided by 5 Star Catering! Tickets are available for pre-purchase for $50. Entrance fee includes one door prize ticket, two drink tickets, access to the winter’s largest gear giveaway and silent auction and a performance by the band Rapidgrass. Click here to get your tickets in advance because this event will sell out.