We’ve been measuring our high country snow in feet rather than inches during a storm flow that’s been going on for days now. The big white pile is coming in dense and wet, in places overloading a weaker midpack. According to Aspen and Crested Butte avalanche websites, large naturals are occurring with regularity. Danger has been rated in the red (High, level 4) for two days now, for all aspects and elevations.
Having read the avy reports and figuring a bunch of stuff had slid (see our Avalanche Hotlines list), we figured we’d take an avalanche tour yesterday and drove up to the McClure Pass and Marble, Colorado to see what the big ones had done. Funny thing was, we saw very little evidence of avalanche activity. We could tell some of the larger paths had slid earlier in the storm (an avalanche blocked the Marble Quarry road last weekend, and one skier was reported to have been caught and self rescued). But nada for fresh slides yesterday. Most everything was just hanging up there.
It’s always strange when field observations don’t corroborate avalanche forecasts (it’s axiomatic during a “High” rating that you’ll see evidence of numerous natural avalanches) . Only sane conclusion is that all the snow which hasn’t slid is just waiting up there for a few more feet or inches of snow weight, then it’s all going to come crashing down in the most apocalyptic avalanche cycle we’ll see in our lifetimes. It’s raining outside our door this morning, thus snowing hard up high. So could happen.
Meanwhile, I think we’ll just have to ski some safe zones (short, low angled, timber). Or skin up the resort. Or do a flat tour and just groove on how the forests around here are looking like the Pacific Northwest.
WildSnow.com publisher emeritus and founder Lou (Louis Dawson) has a 50+ years career in climbing, backcountry skiing and ski mountaineering. He was the first person in history to ski down all 54 Colorado 14,000-foot peaks, has authored numerous books about about backcountry skiing, and has skied from the summit of Denali in Alaska, North America’s highest mountain.