Avalanche Watch Issued: Tuesday, January 15, 2019 at 7:00 AM
Expires: Wednesday, January 16, 2019 at 8:00 AM

Very dangerous avalanche conditions could develop for the Grand Mesa, Gunnison, Aspen, North San Juan, and South San Juan zones on Wednesday. Forecast snowfall amounts are sufficient to cause a widespread cycle of avalanches large enough to bury a person. Some of these avalanches could release naturally, and they will be very easy for backcountry travelers to trigger. Travel in or below avalanche terrain is not recommended on Wednesday.

  • Backcountry Avalanche Forecast
  • Forecast Discussion
  • Observations & Weather Data

Tue, Jan 15, 2019 at 7:29 AM
Issued by: Brian Lazar

Today

 

Tomorrow

Moderate (2) Heightened avalanche conditions on specific terrain features. Evaluate snow and terrain carefully.   High (4) Very dangerous avalanche conditions. Travel in avalanche terrain not recommended.
Moderate (2) Heightened avalanche conditions on specific terrain features. Evaluate snow and terrain carefully.   High (4) Very dangerous avalanche conditions. Travel in avalanche terrain not recommended.
Moderate (2) Heightened avalanche conditions on specific terrain features. Evaluate snow and terrain carefully.   High (4) Very dangerous avalanche conditions. Travel in avalanche terrain not recommended.
  Danger Scale

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Summary

Remotely triggered avalanches from Crested Butte  to Taylor Pass provides good evidence that you can trigger a dangerous avalanche on previously wind-drifted slopes today. The most likely places to find this combination are on north and east-facing slopes steeper than around 35 degrees. The danger is highest in the middle portion of the Gunnison zone where the last month's snow has consolidated into a slab over early season weak layers. In the deeper areas of Ruby Range the weak layers are less pronounced but the potential avalanche could be much larger. In the very shallow area closer to Taylor Park, the slabs are less well developed and the snowpack remains generally weak overall.

Below treeline avalanches may be smaller but they can still be large enough to knock you off your feet and bury you. The snowpack is largely faceted, weak and cohesionless. You can expect sluffs to gouge deep into the snowpack. Terrain features like steep convex rollovers on open slopes, near rock outcroppings and on steep gully walls are the most suspect, especially if you feel like the snow is not supporting you and you are sinking into the bottom of the snowpack.

Conditions will change tonight as a storm brings strong southwest wind and snow into the area. If we meet or exceed the high end of the snow forecast, expect very dangerous avalanche conditions to develop by tomorrow. 

 

Avalanche Problem

 
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N
S
E
W
NW
NE
SE
SW
Above Treeline
Near Treeline
Below Treeline
Certain
Very Likely
Likely
Possible
Unlikely
Historic
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Avalanche Character Aspect/Elevation Likelihood Size

What You Need to Know About These Avalanches


Persistent Slab avalanches can be triggered days to weeks after the last storm. They often propagate across and beyond terrain features that would otherwise confine Wind and Storm Slab avalanches. In some cases they can be triggered remotely, from low-angle terrain or adjacent slopes. Give yourself a wide safety buffer to address the uncertainty.

Avalanche Problem

 
problem icon
N
S
E
W
NW
NE
SE
SW
Above Treeline
Near Treeline
Below Treeline
Certain
Very Likely
Likely
Possible
Unlikely
Historic
Very Large
Large
Small
Avalanche Character Aspect/Elevation Likelihood Size

What You Need to Know About These Avalanches


Storm Slab avalanches release naturally during snow storms and can be triggered for a few days after a storm. They often release at or below the trigger point. They exist throughout the terrain. Avoid them by waiting for the storm snow to stabilize.

Avalanche Problem

 
problem icon
N
S
E
W
NW
NE
SE
SW
Above Treeline
Near Treeline
Below Treeline
Certain
Very Likely
Likely
Possible
Unlikely
Historic
Very Large
Large
Small
Avalanche Character Aspect/Elevation Likelihood Size

What You Need to Know About These Avalanches


Persistent Slab avalanches can be triggered days to weeks after the last storm. They often propagate across and beyond terrain features that would otherwise confine Wind and Storm Slab avalanches. In some cases they can be triggered remotely, from low-angle terrain or adjacent slopes. Give yourself a wide safety buffer to address the uncertainty.

Weather Forecast for 11,000ft Issued Tue, Jan 15, 2019 at 11:28 AM by Brian Lazar Statewide Weather Forecast
  Tuesday Night Wednesday Wednesday Night
Temperature (ºF) 12 to 17 25 to 30 10 to 15
Wind Speed (mph) 5 to 15 8 to 18 8 to 18
Wind Direction SW W W
Sky Cover Overcast Overcast Mostly Cloudy
Snow (in) 2-4E, 4-8W 3-5E,4-8W 2 to 4

Archived Forecasts

  • Select Forecast: Valid

Tue, Jan 15, 2019 at 8:11 AM
Issued by: Spencer Logan Statewide Weather Forecast  

Although it can be easy to focus on the storm that starts Tuesday evening, we should not ignore the conditions we are dealing with today. Human triggered avalanches and near misses have been reported almost daily throughout the Central Mountains. So the message remains consistent and persistent. Persistent weak layers developed early in the winter and persistent slab avalanches continue to be problematic.

Near and above treeline, our most problematic layer has been a widespread persistent weak layer that formed in mid-December and was buried by storms in late December. Depending on aspect and location, you could find surface hoar, near surface facets, crusts, or some combination. None of these snow grains are known for their ability to bond well, and are notorious weak layers. Last week's storms pushed the weak layers past the tipping point. Although the layers have become less reactive in the past few days, the incoming storm will test them again. The snowpack is deep enough now in most portions of Central Mountains to smooth out ground roughness and subtle terrain features, making it easier for avalanches to become larger and travel farther. If this incoming storm meets or beats expectations, we can expect to see another natural avalanche cycle similar to what we observed in the January 6 to 7 cycle. Or possibly larger avalanche sizes.

Below treeline, cold and clear nights have faceted away the slab that formed during  the January 6 to 7 storm. Loose avalanches are gouging deeper into the depth hoar near the ground. These sluffs can grow very quickly, and become big enough to knock you off of your feet. They can be dangerous if you are in the wrong spot. The incoming storm will load this weak snow structure and make the entire snowpack very sensitive.


  • This avalanche was triggered from a distance. Jan 13 2019, Gunnison Zone. (full)
  • This avalanche was triggered from below. Jan 14 2019, Aspen Zone. (full)

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Five Day Trend

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Avalanche Observations
Report Date # Elevation Aspect Type Trigger SizeR SizeD
View Tue Jan 15 - <TL SE SS N R2 D1
View Tue Jan 15 - <TL SE SS AM R2 D1
View Tue Jan 15 - <TL E SS N R2 D1.5
View Tue Jan 15 - <TL N - N R1 D1
View Sun Jan 13 - <TL NE - AS / r R2 D1

See All Avalanche Observations

Field Reports
Report Date Observer Snowpack Obs Avalanches Media
View Tue Jan 15 Eric Murrow No No Yes (3)
View Tue Jan 15 Eric Murrow and Ben Pritchett No Yes (4) Yes (16)
View Mon Jan 14 Tom Schaefer No No Yes (2)
View Mon Jan 14 Bob Wade No No Yes (1)
View Sun Jan 13 (Public) Crested Butte Avalanche Center No Yes (1) Yes (1)
View Sun Jan 13 Evan Ross No No No

See All Field Reports

Weather Observations
Station Date Time Temperature Relative Humidity Wind Speed Wind Direction Max Gust 24 Hr Snow
Butte Wed Jan 16 1:00 AM 25 - - - - -
Elkton Wed Jan 16 2:00 AM 19 98 2 170 5 3.0
Park Cone Wed Jan 16 2:00 AM 25 - - - - -
Taylor Park Wed Jan 16 1:57 AM 23 95 3 138 4 -

See All Weather Observations