Snowfall forms tenuous bond

Avalanche danger increases because of old snowpack

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— The Colorado Avalanche Information Center is reporting that backcountry travelers in Fish Creek Canyon northeast of Steamboat Springs witnessed "large collapses in the snowpack, and the snowpack has only grown more tender since then."

Avalanche forecaster John Snook wrote in a report filed Tuesday that the 10-plus inches of snow that fell Sunday night into Monday morning built fresh slabs on eastern aspects, especially near and above tree line.

"Given the arrival of the storm well after dark, the old snow surface had a chance to set up and get firm," Snook wrote. "The bottom line is that the avalanche danger has increased, cornices will be very tender, and some very smooth bed surfaces for avalanches to run on are expected."

The Avalanche Information Center is rating the danger in the Steamboat backcountry as "considerable" at all elevations on north- to south-facing slopes, and "moderate" on northwest- to southwest-facing slopes.

Retired avalanche forecaster Art Judson said recent observations of a very limited sample of avalanche-prone slopes in the vicinity of Sleeping Giant and Steamboat Lake did not reveal any fresh avalanche activity.

Noting that early morning temperatures in Steamboat were below zero Tuesday, Snook said conditions would become tricky if the snow surface warmed rapidly. Warming temperatures cause the new snow to settle, adding stress at the boundary with the old snow.

The warming that Snook cautioned about had not materialized as of 3:30 p.m. Tuesday, when the temperature was 28 degrees.

The National Weather Service in Grand Junction had predicted a high of 42 degrees Tuesday. The outlook for the rest of the week includes highs of 46 degrees Wednesday and Thursday, with the temperature reaching the low 50s Friday and Saturday.

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