Avalanche danger in Aspen-area mountains increases with new snow | VailDaily.com

Avalanche danger in Aspen-area mountains increases with new snow

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A report by the Colorado Avalanche Information Center shows where a skier triggered an avalanche on Express Creek Road near the summit of Taylor Pass on Friday. The skier 'surfed' the slab and was uninjured.
Colorado Avalanche Information Center/courtesy image

PITKIN COUNTY — The avalanche danger in the mountains surrounding Aspen is likely to increase as more snow starts piling up, according to the Colorado Avalanche Information Center.

A skier was caught in a slide Friday even before the danger increased, stressing the tricky conditions, the avalanche center said in an online report. The male skier was not buried or injured.

The skier was part of a group skinning up the Jeep road on Taylor Pass en route to the Opa’s Hut, according to a report filed with the avalanche center. Taylor Pass is near the town of Ashcroft, about 12 miles from Aspen.

The first skier triggered a slide on a northwest aspect below the pass summit.

“The skier took a ride of a few hundred feet, ‘surfing’ a hard block of avalanche debris,” the report said. “His ski was caught and fortunately released.”

The group couldn’t find his ski. They continued their trip, spreading out to 75-feet intervals so only one person would get caught in case of another slide.

Can’t let guard down

While that incident occurred in the backcountry, many of the mishaps in the Aspen area have historically been in the sidecountry accessed from the ski slopes. Skiers cannot let their guard down on slopes just outside the ski-area boundaries.

Fresh snow Monday increased the avalanche rating to considerable from moderate. Considerable is level 3 of 5.

“Snow that has been on the ground since early in the season is weak,” the avalanche center said.

With steady snow expected daily in the extended forecast, the quickest increases in avalanche danger will be on slopes with drifting snow, the report said.

“It is becoming easier for you to trigger dangerous avalanches on steep slopes,” the avalanche center said Monday. “You could trigger them from a distance or bottom of a slope, and they could spread over terrain features in surprising ways. Expect the avalanche danger to increase quickly with the additional snow.”