Reported Friday, February 25, 2011 at 6:55 AM
The danger is CONSIDERABLE (Level 3) on Northwest through Southeast aspects at all elevations. Pockets of CONSIDERABLE (Level 3) danger exist in cross-loaded gullies and open bowls on South through West aspects at all elevations. The danger is MODERATE (Level 2) everywhere else.
Avalanche Problem #1
Over a foot of storm snow in the high country and strong southwest winds have created fresh wind slabs on lee and cross-loaded terrain. Be most suspicious of northwest through east aspects near and above treeline but strong and swirling winds have the potential to load all aspects. While many windward slopes will be scoured by strong southwest winds, gullies and open bowls may be cross-loaded on south through west slopes. Wind transport won't be as strong at lower elevations but any rapid loading will stress the overall weaker structure of the snowpack below treeline. More snow and more wind are in the forecast today; anticipate sustained wind loading throughout the day.
Avalanche Problem #2
So far town has received 8 inches of new snow in the last 24 hours and the mountains north and west of town have received well over a foot. Storm snow is resting on crusts on solar aspects and buried facets and surface hoar on shady slopes. Observers at Irwin reported minor cracking and very soft skier triggered slab avalanches running in the storm snow yesterday. Previous storm snow was low density--4% reported at Irwin. The incoming moist southwesterly flow will generate wetter snow and we will most likely be looking at an "upside-down" storm with heavy snow over lighter snow. Watch for the danger to rise with increasing snow throughout the day.
In the Backcountry
The town of Crested Butte recieved 5 inches of new snow overnight bringing the storm total to 8 inches early this morning. Irwin reported 10 inches of snow as of yesterday afternoon and by now the mountains north and west of town have received well over a foot of snow. While winds have remained relatively calm down here in town, ridge-top winds have been averaging 20-30 mph from the southwest with very strong gusts. More snow and strong west southwest winds are in the forecast today. Storm snow and strong winds have created dangerous avalanche conditions throughout the Crested Butte backcountry. Fresh wind slabs will be reactive on all lee and cross loaded slopes today. If the forecasted snow and winds verify we could be moving to HIGH danger this weekend. Avalanche conditions will worsen throughout the day and natural avalanches are possible on all aspects and elevations.