Steamboat Springs The tenderness of the snowpack in the Routt County backcountry revealed itself during the weekend, with a pair of human-caused avalanches on Rabbit Ears Pass and several more slides in northern Routt County.
The Colorado Avalanche Information Center reported Monday that a snowmobiler triggered a slide on the east side of Rabbit Ears that partially buried his companion below him. The machine being driven by the rider caught in the avalanche had become stuck prior to the avalanche.
Spencer Logan, of the CAIC, said the incident was self-reported by one of the snowmobilers. It happened about a half-mile west of Rabbit Ears Pass. Neither the Routt County Sheriff’s Office nor Routt County Search and Rescue were contacted, and no injuries were reported.
The CAIC on Monday rated the avalanche danger in the Steamboat backcountry “considerable” on northern, eastern and southern exposures. That rating signifies that human-caused avalanches are possible. The rating is “moderate” on northwestern, western and southwestern exposures.
A second slide was triggered at approximately 10,500 feet elevation in Grand County by a skier close to Rabbit Ears Peak.
“On Sunday, skiers triggered an avalanche on a southwest aspect of the Rabbit Ears with a ski cut,” Logan wrote on the CAIC Web site. “The slide was 2 to 3 feet deep, about 200 feet wide, and 200 to 300 vertical. (It) started on a wind loaded, convex roll.”
Logan added that another avalanche forecaster, Simon Trautman, was in the Rabbit Ears area during the weekend conducting a clinic. Trautman found weak, sugary facets at the base of the snowpack on all aspects, and his group heard substantial “whumpfing” noises as snow layers settled.
“One collapse was big enough to shake trees. In snow pits, test results were moderate but very clean and fast. Ugly deep slab problem! Higher in the snowpack was a rime crust from the start of the last storm,” Logan relayed. “Facets were growing just below the crust. Not a problem yet but will be when it is eventually loaded.”
Retired avalanche forecaster Art Judson, of Steamboat Springs, photographed a pair of avalanches on the flank of Sand Mountain, south of Steamboat Lake, during the weekend. He deduced the slide probably came down the night of Jan. 6, after the most recent snowfall. He estimated the larger slide was 2,200 feet wide along a fracture line that was 18 inches deep. It dropped about 200 vertical feet, he said.
A third, larger slide also broke loose from a historic path on the east side of Hahn’s Peak known to locals as the Millie O.