Latest News – December 19
As storm after storm rolls through Colorado, and the snow starts to stack up, so does avalanche danger. It’s a good time to check in with the Colorado Avalanche Information Center (CAIC) to see how conditions are rated in the Sangre de Cristo Zone, which includes Saguache and Saguache County.
On Sunday, the CAIC reported: Field observations are sparse from the Sangre de Cristo zone so far this season. The Saturday storm added 0.7 to 1.3 inches of water equivalent. With the winds, that could translate into thick and stiff layers of drifted snow. This will make avalanches possible on the slopes with drifted snow. You could trigger avalanche sin the storm snow, but more problematic are avalanche breaking on weak layers near the ground.
It Doesn’t Take Much to Trigger a Slide: Field Report:
You are most likely to find the buried persistent weak layers on northerly and easterly-facing slopes. The snowpack is patchy. The most dangerous avalanche conditions will be found in areas where the snow cover is continuous. Remember recent avalanche activity, cracking and collapsing are signs of dangerous avalanche conditions.
Probably the best example of how an avalanche develops can be seen right out your car window. When air temperature remains low, the snow sticks to the surface and does not slide off. After the temperature increases, however, the snow will sluff, or slide, down the front of the windshield, often in small slabs. This is an avalanche on a miniature scale.
About the CAIC: According to the CAIC website, the center began issuing public avalanche forecasts in 1973 as part of a research program, which became part of the Department of Natural Resources in 1983. The CAIC joined the Colorado Department of Transportation’s highway safety program in 1993. The Friends of the CAIC (a 501c3 group) formed in 2007 to promote avalanche safety in Colorado and support the recreation program of the CAIC.
In short, these are the people who regularly monitor conditions in the backcountry when it comes to avalanche susceptibility. And they know what they are talking about, so please take the warnings seriously as the local forecast call for yet another round of snow today, a slight reprieve over the weekend, and another round of storms forecasted for earlier next week.