SUMMIT COUNTY, Colo. (CBS4) – There a new worry about avalanche danger in Colorado’s high country.
The Colorado Avalanche Information Center shows nearly all of Colorado’s high country is ripe for an avalanche, and forecasters have their eyes on how the new snow is going to change things.READ MORE: Blue Angels Jet Makes Emergency Landing At Great Colorado Air Show
Some places around Summit County were reporting snow over half a foot on Tuesday. On flat ground it’s not too big an issue, but when adding in the slope and the warm weather the mountains have had for the past few days, there are layers upon layers of danger inside the snowpack.
“The chances of natural avalanches are pretty low, but the natural snow we got last night are bumping things up a little bit,” CAIC forecaster Scott Toepfer told CBS4’s Jeff Todd when they met up just south of Breckenridge on Tuesday. “For now the snowpack is not getting stronger, it is just getting weaker.”
Toepfer dug a snow pit to survey the dangers.
“And then we kind of like to thump on it a little bit, see how it behaves when it gets hit by a skier, snowboarder, snow machine, or snowshoer, and see how it reacts,” Toepfer said.
At the bottom is snow that looks a lot like sugar.
“You can see that has very little structure and it just kind of wants to fall apart, and so that’s really what supports our entire winter snowpack.”
Right away the new snow from Monday night slides off on top of a crusty layer of snow.READ MORE: Marijuana Social Equity Fair Seeks To Level The Playing Field For Communities Of Color
“You can see how that just pops right out and it’s staying together as a slab, so this new snow has gained enough strength with the individual snow crystals that fell last night to form a bit of a slab, and then it wants to slide, it took the crust with it.”
While it’s dangerous, what’s lower in the snowpack is what’s potentially deadly. Experts call it a “persistent slab.”
“That’s all sitting on that sugary snow we looked at earlier … that slab, the shallow snowpack, is decaying or it’s losing — the slab is losing strength.”
Which means the avalanche danger isn’t going down any time soon.
“There’s just a sandwich of problem layers that we’re dealing with.”
More snow could make the problem worse adding more weight on top of the weak layers below. But if there’s a long, sustained snowstorm, Toepfer says that could make things better and would certainly be a welcome sight for skiers and snowboarders.MORE NEWS: Hikers Discouraged From Climbing Kit Carson Peak As Madeline Baharlou-Quivey's Body Recovered