Avalanche danger spiking, new classes offered | VailDaily.com

Avalanche danger spiking, new classes offered

Bob Berwyn
Summit correspondent
Summit County, CO Colorado,

SUMMIT COUNTY ” After a brief lull, the avalanche danger in the local mountains is soaring again, fueled by fresh snow and high winds.

Near and above treeline, where more than a foot of snow fell, the avalanche danger as of Thursday morning was rated as “high.” Natural and human triggered slides probable on north to south-facing slopes. where the primary concern is fresh windslabs on steep lee slopes.

Even in areas with less new snow, the danger was rated as considerable on higher slopes, where human-triggered slides are likely.

The danger may subside slightly with Thursday’s warm temperatures, but could increase again with new snow expected Thursday night and Friday.

Forecasters singled out Vail Pass for potential hazards. Control work Wednesday resulted in numerous large slides running full path.

Snow totals from the recent storm varied widely by drainage, with only a few inches in the eastern part of the county, but more than two feet around Vail Pass.

Cracks in the snow and recent slide activity are clear warning signs for backcountry travelers.

Deep instabilities still exist, especially on shady north through east aspects, according to the Colorado Avalanche Information Center.

Deeper slabs may be harder to trigger through the fresh layers, but when they release, they could be very large, forecasters warned this week.

Check in with the avalanche center at http://avalanche.state.co.us/ for the latest forecasts and bulletins, or call the local hotline at (970) 331-5996.

Getting some firsthand experience in the backcountry is the best way to learn how to travel safely and avoid avalanche danger.

A new avalanche awareness class offered by Chicago Ridge snowcat tours at Ski Cooper is among the latest offerings in the region.

Snowcat tour director Chris Sutton said the first two-day session for the new program is set for Jan. 30-31. The cost is $120 per person, and the class is limited to 12 people.

“We’re hoping to grow it into a Level 1 avalanche class,” Sutton said, explaining that the two-day course will cover basics like snowpack evaluation, route finding and beacon searches.

Participants will be transported into the backcountry via snowcats, and there probably will be some fine powder skiing to go along with the avalanche information, he said.

But skis or snowboards aren’t mandatory for the course, he added.

Since snowcats will be used, the class is also suited for hikers, snowshoe trekkers and snowmobilers.

“The more education,” he said, “the better.

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