Eyewitness report of numerous avalanche paths in North Routt | SteamboatToday.com

Eyewitness report of numerous avalanche paths in North Routt

Christmas avalanche spied

The Colorado Mountain College Avalanche Safety class evaluating snowpack on a north-facing slope on Rabbit Ears West Summit in the midst of a previous winter.

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Backcountry skiers in the vicinity of Steamboat Springs that are contemplating an outing in the Park Range or Flat Tops Wilderness Area are advised that dangerous conditions exist at all elevations, and are advised that if they are determined to recreate on remote mountains, to stick to slopes with an angle of less than 30 degrees.

Forecaster Mike Cooperstein of the Colorado Avalanche Information Center said the avalanches could be deadly.

Further evidence of the unstable snowpack in North Routt and the vicinity of Hahn’s Peak was supplied by an unidentified backcountry traveler who witnessed an avalanche happen on Christmas Day.

“Saw many avalanches that occurred (on east to northeast faces) during and after the last storm cycle,” the citizen observer wrote. “Witnessed a natural release on an east facing aspect. Crowns (fracture lines) were from 3 feet to 5 feet tall.”



Cooperstein urged all backcountry travelers to be cautious in their route-finding and conservative in their decision making .

“Recent snow and strong westerly winds have built slabs on top of an extremely weak snowpack,” he advised. “You may be able to trigger large avalanches that break at the ground on steep slopes. You may also be able to remotely trigger avalanches from below or from adjacent slopes.”

In addition to avoiding steep slopes, backcountry skiers, snowmobilers and snowshoers should avoid slopes of modest incline if they are connected to steeper slopes higher up the mountain, Cooperstein added.

As “considerable” as the Avalanche Information Center finds the danger in the Park Range that is home to the Mount Zirkel Wilderness Area just northwest of Steamboat Springs, it’s higher across North Park to the east in the Never Summer Range and the vicinity of Cameron Pass.

Backcountry enthusiasts are advised against venturing into those mountains where avalanche conditions are “very dangerous.”

Skiers and riders who recreate in that backcountry were reminded of the danger in the winter of 2016-17 when a member of Routt County Search and Rescue survived an avalanche while on a rescue mission in Fish Creek Canyon in January 2017, and a Routt County man riding a snowbike was trapped and died in an avalanche in the Flat Tops in February.

To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205, email tross@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @ThomasSRoss1.

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