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 7:32 AM
Issued by: Chris Bilbrey

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

Triggering a large and dangerous avalanche breaking deep in the snowpack is becoming more difficult each day but not out of the question. Slopes that face west to north through southeast have multiple, buried weak layers and are the most suspect. The widespread nature of our persistent weak layers makes backcountry travel complex, and you may not see obvious signs of instability today. Recent avalanches have been triggered from bottoms of slopes or remotely from adjacent slopes.

Open slopes or steep convexities that catch wind-drifted snow can produce larger, more dangerous avalanches and spread over multiple terrain features. Cracking, collapsing, and recent avalanches highlight slopes where weak layers lurk below. Stick to lower angled, wind-sheltered slopes unless you’ve carefully evaluated the snowpack and considered the consequences of taking a ride.

An Avalanche Watch is in effect for the South San Juan zone. Heavy snow and strong southwest winds are forecasted to arrive Tuesday night. If we meet or exceed the high end of the forecast snow totals, avalanche danger will increase Wednesday with very dangerous avalanche conditions.

 

 

Avalanche Problem

 
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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

 
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N
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Above Treeline
Near Treeline
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Certain
Very Likely
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Historic
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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

 
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N
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NE
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Above Treeline
Near Treeline
Below Treeline
Certain
Very Likely
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Possible
Unlikely
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Very Large
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Avalanche Character Aspect/Elevation Likelihood Size

What You Need to Know About These Avalanches


Loose Dry avalanches exist throughout the terrain, release at or below the trigger point, and can run in densely-treed areas. Avoid very steep slopes and terrain traps such as cliffs, gullies, or tree wells.

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) 15 to 20 25 to 30 12 to 17
Wind Speed (mph) 8 to 18 10 to 20 10 to 20
Wind Direction SW WSW WSW
Sky Cover Overcast Overcast Mostly Cloudy
Snow (in) 5 to 9 2 to 5 0 to 1

Archived Forecasts

  • Select Forecast: Valid

Tue, Jan 15, 2019 at 8:19 AM
Issued by: Chris Bilbrey Statewide Weather Forecast  

An Avalanche Watch is in effect for the San Juan Mountains till 0800 Wednesday. An incoming storm system brings warm, moist Pacific air into Southwest Colorado and potentially significant snowfall. Snow looks to develop overnight Tuesday and continue throughout the day on Wednesday. If snow totals verify or exceed forecasted numbers, we could see very dangerous avalanche conditions develop by early Wednesday morning. 

Today is a transition day before avalanche conditions change. Triggering a large and dangerous avalanche has become more difficult since our last major loading event eight days ago. Low-density snowfall over the past couple days did not provide a large enough load to wake up buried weak layers and produce widespread avalanches. These problematic layers are getting buried deeper and slabs are settling and stiffening. This makes it more difficult for a person or machine to impact weak layers buried deep in the snowpack. On some slopes, weak November facets are showing signs of strengthening. On other, shallower slopes these weak layers continue to persist and still produce propagating results in stability test. Free information highlighting unstable snow such as cracking, whumpfing collapses, and recent avalanches are not as obvious from even a few days ago, but still exist.

These current conditions place us in that unspoken but spoken about avalanche condition known to many snow and avalanche professionals as “scary moderate”. The slope you choose to ride or ski may or may not avalanche. It is really hard to say, but very much possible. The widespread nature of our persistent weak layers makes backcountry travel complex. You can steer clear of wind-loaded slopes or steep, open convexities to reduce your avalanche risk. These wind-drifted areas are still capable of producing larger, more dangerous avalanches and spreaing over multiple terrain features.  

The upcoming storm has potential to provide a heavy and quick shock load to the snowpack. Our weak and fragile snowpack has been very reactive producing numerous natural and human-triggered avalanches during and after each major loading event since early December. You should expect more of the same with our next storm. It is exciting to see consistent snowfall this winter after such a warm and dry winter last year. However, you should recognize our snowpack is still scary and unpredictable. The snowpack in the San Juan Mountains is different than the past several years. Take this into account when you travel in the backcountry and realize that slopes you may have ridden many times last season or the season before may no longer be safe to blindly jump on.

 


  • Remotely triggered avalanche on SE aspect near treeline. 1/14/19. (full)
  • ECT at crown line of natural avalanche on SE aspect at 11,670 feet. 1/13/19. (full)
  • Molas ASr-R2-D1.5 January 11, 2019 (full)
  • Snowpit on WSW aspect at 10,900 feet. ECTP 10 on 2 to 4 mm facets at the ground. Ridgeline between Bedrock and Madden Creeks, La Plata Mountains. 1/10/19. (full)

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Five Day Trend

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Avalanche Observations
Report Date # Elevation Aspect Type Trigger SizeR SizeD
View Mon Jan 14 - TL NE SS N R3 D2
View Mon Jan 14 - TL SE SS AK R1 D2
View Mon Jan 14 - TL NE SS N R1 D2
View Mon Jan 14 - TL W SS N R2 D2
View Mon Jan 14 - TL SE SS N R1 D1.5
View Sun Jan 13 - TL SE SS N R3 D2

See All Avalanche Observations

Field Reports
Report Date Observer Snowpack Obs Avalanches Media
View Mon Jan 14 Mark Mueller No No Yes (1)
View Mon Jan 14 Chris Bilbrey No Yes (5) Yes (8)
View Mon Jan 14 Matt Entz No Yes (2) Yes (4)
View Sun Jan 13 A.J. DeBoer No No Yes (1)
View Sun Jan 13 Chris Bilbrey No Yes (1) Yes (6)

See All Field Reports

Weather Observations
Station Date Time Temperature Relative Humidity Wind Speed Wind Direction Max Gust 24 Hr Snow
Columbus Basin Wed Jan 16 2:00 AM 25 - - - - 1.0
Cumbres Trestle Wed Jan 16 2:00 AM 28 - - - - 5.0
Lily Pond Wed Jan 16 2:00 AM 27 - - - - -
Wolf Creek Summit Wed Jan 16 2:00 AM 27 - - - - 2.0

See All Weather Observations