Large Natural Avalanche, Mt Baldy

Location: Paradise Divide Area
Date of Observation: 11/05/2018
Name: Evan Ross, Eric Murrow

Subject: Large Natural Avalanche, Mt Baldy
Aspect: North East
Elevation: 10,200-11,600


Observed one good natural slab that ran about 2,000 feet which likely failed during Sunday night, 11/4. The slab didn’t necessarily look that large, but the avalanche path holds a steep enough slope angle that allowed the debris to keep running and accumulating snow along the way. This avalanche probably started as a wind slab or cornice fall at ridgline around 12,600ft. Then those debris popped an estimated 200′ wide persistent slab just below a large cliff band that all continued on down for the rest of its journey.  This same piece of terrain produced a skier triggered slide on Saturday 11/3.  It released a bit to the lookers left and below the one pictured.  The observation for this avalanche can be found here.

Weather: Broken sky and generally protected from any wind.
Snowpack: Snowpack depth was sharky to 70cm on average, depending on elevation and on slopes exposed to previous wind events. The deepest and most suspect snowpack would have been on the true north facing slopes above 11,400ft. Winds associated with 11/4 had raked or pressed a lot of those more northerly slopes and loaded the more northeasterly slopes in this area. Observed new snow drifts up to 40cm, but the 11/4 storm probably brought in around 15-18cm’s HST at the upper elevations we were traveling in. The new snow felt slabby from the wind and sitting on junk that you could type another paragraph about.  Sandwiched in between the past few days snowfall and the faceted snow from the 10/9 and 10/11 snow events was a thin 1finger hard crust.  Outside of observing a good sized natural avalanche, we observed one large collapse that sent shooting cracks for 100-200′ on the deepest part of a slope, the shaded, most northerly facing, and further not stripped by recent winds… part of that slope. The slope angle at the cracks were at or above 40 degrees. The cracks didn’t appear to continue into the more northeasterly part of this slope.


Eased into slope expecting a good collapse. Shooting cracks up the most shaded part of the slope along the left side of the picture and into the rocks above. Cracks didn’t appear to run out into the middle of the bowl. HS increased from ~40cm’s to ~90cm’s where we finally got the collapse.

NW Bowl Mt. Baldy

Location: Paradise Divide Area
Date of Observation: 11/04/2018
Name: Tom Schaefer

Subject: NW Bowl Mt. Baldy
Aspect: North West
Elevation: 12,300’


Observerd one new avalanche that appeared to have happened that day crossing over a skin track mid bowl? Small wind loaded feature at aprox. 12,500’ below small cliff band. SS- N/O-R1-D1 O/G

Weather: Overcast in the AM becoming Obscured at 11:30. Winds West light BTL and Moderate near and ATL throughout the day. Snowfall rate increased from S1 at 11:30 to S5 at 1:45. Temps remained in the 20’s throughout the day.
Snowpack: Variable depths throughout NW bowl ranging from 10 cm to 90cm. Steep gully’s near ridges avg. 30 cm slippery wind stiffened surfaces. Below 12,000’ snow depth more consistent avg 90cm. with a fair amount of skier tracks on softer snow. Dug one quick hand pit at 12,300’ NW aspect HS 85cm and found 6 different weak layers from the ground up. Facet layer failed at 45cm with a hand shear test Q3.


Reactive pockets

Location: Paradise Divide Area
Date of Observation: 11/04/2018
Name: Andrew Butterfield

Subject: Reactive pockets
Aspect: North East, East
Elevation: 12,500


Plenty of sign of recent activity . Old debree piles were visible and felt on up-track. No concern until about 12,000′, after which we started experiencing some collapsing and cracking on wind-loaded pockets. Visibility was short, at times, and at one point I punched through a wind-loaded pocket (not visible at the time,) next to an old bed surface and caused a BIG collapse…probably enough snow to take somebody for a painful ride. Winds have been wreaking havok up there and certainly can present a big safety concern. With the new snow and wind, I imagine it may get worse. It’s early but please be advised to travel safely and be be weary of leeward slopes, as they are becoming reactive to ski-travel.

Weather: Gusty and variable wind.. 10-20 mph, mainly out of the west but variable direction and speed. Sun and cloud mix, periods of snow.
Snowpack: Roughly 2′ to ground, in the lower gully. In the alpine, closer to 3′. Probably an underestimated amount of snow from the night of 11/2-11/3 in the zone. We found pockets of fresh, drifted snow of up to 12″ on our tour today. Also, it snowed and “blowed” hard today (in periods) to contibute to the complexity.


Mount Owen Slab avalanche if you zoom into apron.

Nov 1 Update

After our first big storm October 10th, we saw drier and warming weather return that melted most snow below 11,000ft on the southerly aspects, but the warmth wasn’t strong or long enough to melt away all the snow on west, north or east facing slopes.  It cooked it into a dense, slick layer that will be problematic for future avalanches, but at the time, kept those skis above the sharp rocks below.
Snow and precipitation returned around October 24th bringing pretty impressive rainfall below 11,000ft and another slushy few inches above treeline.
Now, most recently, we saw about 6” of “rightside up” snowfall on Halloween, starting wet, windy, and falling at around 30 degrees on the 30th, until overnight temperatures fell into the teens, leaving a fluffy finish and some people took advantage of that snow for some turns in the Kebler Pass area.  However, a decent natural slab avalanche (size 1.5) was observed on the NE bowl of Mount Owen, failing within that new/old snow interface and running mid apron.
As the snow piles up, it will become increasingly likely to see avalanche conditions develop on slopes steeper than 30 degrees, on the northern half of the compass where the snowpack is deepest.  That is the conundrum this time of year, looking for the deepest turns also means poking your nose into the most avalanche prone terrain.
As always, mind those sharky early season hazards and tread lightly!  Don’t put a fork in your season before it begins.  Please pass along any early season observations and remember, the Crested Butte area has seen a healthy dose of near misses and close calls with avalanches this time of year in the past.
Look for another update as conditions continue to develop and regular forecasts firing up later this month.
-Ian Havlick

First turns of the season… here’s what you need to know

The mountains surrounding Crested Butte received a solid coat of new snow last week. Accumulations ranged from 1 to 2 feet across our forecast area. The spine of the Ruby Range and Paradise Divide areas were the winners in snowfall totals. Westerly winds during this period produced fresh cornices and wind drifts up to 3 feet deep behind ridges and leeward terrain features. CBAC forecasters noted at least one significant (size 2) wind Slab avalanche and several loose snow avalanches over the weekend. This snowfall lured many skiers and riders into the high country for the first turns of the season.

If you head out into the high country looking for early season turns keep a few things in mind.

  • Every member of the party should always carry a beacon, shovel, probe.
  • Avalanche season is upon us and following basic avalanche safety habits are important.
  • The deepest areas to ride, are the same places most likely to trigger an ugly early season avalanche.
  • Terrain with drifted snow is the deepest and also the most dangerous at the moment.
    • These areas will be significantly deeper than surrounding terrain and may have a textured surface.
  • Areas below cornices and terrain directly behind ridges should be considered suspect.
  • Cracking in the snow is a sure sign you have found a potentially dangerous slab.
  • The risk of triggering an avalanche will slowly subside as clear skies and high pressure takes hold this week, but keep in mind the consequences of an early season avalanche could result in being dragged over rocks and stumps with the shallow depth of the current snowpack.
  • Keep the excitement in check while you rub the cobwebs from your avalanche eyes.

We will provide periodic condition updates as conditions warrant both here on our website, and on our social media channels (Facebook and Instagram). Look for the CBAC to resume daily forecast advisories sometime during the second half of November. Enjoy that early snowfall and send us your observations!

Ruby Range

Location: Kebler Pass Area
Date of Observation: 04/21/2018
Name: Evan Ross

Subject: Ruby Range
Aspect: South East
Elevation: 10,500-12,600


Found the one wind loaded terrain feature on all of the south face of Ruby at about 11,000ft. D1 30-35cm windslab failing about 1cm above the old snow surface on non persistent grains.

Weather: Sun popping out in CB in the morning, but drove into the cloud heading out Kebler. Mostly cloudy sky in the morning become overcast by 10am with a cloud deck starting at about 10,800ft. Moderate northerly wind gusts at ridgeline. Full white out but didn’t observe any snow blowing about when I looked at my feet.
Snowpack: The new snow has settled into a thick 5-6″ at lower elevations. Climbing higher up a south aspect the new snow had either been pressed in by the wind or green housing, or blown off. Didn’t get onto the wind loaded terrain for a comparison at higher elevations. An experienced person fell off the same small cornice twice within 10 minutes. Sweet! classic. #whiteout