This incoming winter storm will increase the hazard in the Steamboat-Flat Top zone by tomorrow if the forecast verifies. Expect avalanches in the accumulating storm snow to be a threat by tomorrow. Other areas of the Northern Mountains will see less snowfall out of this storm, but the snowpack is weak out side the Steamboat area and Park Range. Small amounts if incremental loading from new and drifting snow will make avalanchew slightly easier to trigger over the next day or two. A bigger thump Thursday night and into Friday should be enough to increase the hazard across most of the Northern Mountains.
Here is a partial list of the recent avalanche activity over the last week throughout the Northern Mountains: Flat Tops - Snowmobile triggered slid in the southern Flat Tops. Front Range - Mt Trelease, Current Creek, Sheep Creek. Vail/Summit County - Mt Royal, Mt Lincoln, Mt Guyot, a near miss on Georgia Pass, Gore Range., Monteuma. I also wanted to highlight this one from the Sawatch as it occurred in a similar snowpack to thinner and weaker areas that have received less snowfall this year.
Pay attention to the slope characteristics of these avalanches. Avalanches triggered in the new snow were on steep slopes or rollovers. These avalanches were on the smaller side but could be dangerous if the slope you are on ends in a cliff or thick stand of trees. Many of the other avalanches failed as a result of recent loading, either by new snow or by wind-transported snow. These avalanches were much larger and in many cases broke into deeper weak layers. Slopes with dense slabs resting above persistent weak layers will continue to haunt us for the foreseeable future. Each new storm will reactivate these poor structures, so give extra caution to steep slopes during and following a storm cycle.
The examples above show the dangerous results if you trigger an avalanche. Continue to use good backcountry travel protocols and default to lower angle terrain to avoid a run-in with a large and deadly avalanche.