Steamboat, Flat Tops areas under avalanche warning | CraigDailyPress.com

Steamboat, Flat Tops areas under avalanche warning

Eleanor C. Hasenbeck/Steamboat Pilot & Today

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Very dangerous avalanche conditions have developed in the mountains surrounding Steamboat Springs.

The Colorado Avalanche Information Center placed Steamboat and the Flat Tops Wilderness Area under an avalanche warning until 7 a.m. Tuesday. Small and large avalanches are likely to occur in the area, according to the center. The Grand Mesa, Gunnison and Aspen areas were also placed under a warning.

"New and drifting snow will increase the avalanche danger today, especially north of Steamboat," the agency wrote on its website.

Avalanche Information Center forecaster Spencer Logan said the organization uses avalanche warnings to highlight a high avalanche danger.

“With a high avalanche danger, backcountry conditions are very dangerous,” Logan said. “Avalanches will be very easy to trigger, and you might see natural avalanches running on their own. Traveling in the backcountry will require a lot of care, and you will want to stay far away from steep slopes.”

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Logan said the amount of snowfall this weekend — upwards of 10 inches in some locations in Northwest Colorado — have created a higher risk of larger avalanches. Avalanches occur when weakly bonded new snow slides off a layer of older, well-bonded snow.

“It’s quite dense, which means it’s heavy, and it’s a lot of a load,” Logan said. “It’s also coming in with strong winds. That combination is stacking a whole bunch of stuff on top of a snowpack that had some fragile layers.”

Logan encouraged those headed into the backcountry to check conditions at avalanche.state.co.us. Logan said the risk of avalanches is expected to decrease in the coming days as snow settles, but conditions could remain dangerous for several days.

Since Saturday, the Avalanche Information Center recorded 11 avalanches in Colorado's central and southern mountains, including an avalanche that killed one person in San Juan County.

To reach Eleanor Hasenbeck, call 970-871-4210, email ehasenbeck@SteamboatPilot.com or follow her on Twitter @elHasenbeck.