‘Crucial’ time for avalanches | VailDaily.com

‘Crucial’ time for avalanches

Scott CondonVail, CO Colorado
Jordan Curet/The Aspen Times

ASPEN – Avalanche forecasters warn that conditions are precarious on backcountry slopes right now and timing of travel is “crucial.”Both the Colorado Avalanche Information Center and the Aspen-based Roaring Fork Avalanche Center warned this week f two major developments — “deep slab instability” and “wet, loose activity.”

The activity is common as temperatures rise, said John Snook, a forecaster with the Colorado Avalanche Information Center.The sun and unseasonably warm temperatures melt the top layer of snow on south-facing slopes, Snook said. The water penetrates the snowpack and lubricates the different layers of snow, triggering wet, loose avalanches, he said.

“When you start to see roller balls or sluffs coming out of rock outcroppings, then it is time to leave these areas, even if it is still morning,” the state information center’s Web site reported Tuesday.The Web site for the Roaring Fork Avalanche Center sounded a similar warning.”We are at the point of the season when picking your timing on specific aspects is becoming crucial,” it said.

Warmer temperatures stabilize the snow on north-facing slopes, Snook said. But the tricky thing is pockets of instability still exist, often in shady areas. The weight of a backcountry traveler on those isolated weak spots is “enough to trigger a large, deep slab avalanche,” the Colorado Avalanche Information Center’s Web site said.

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