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!
The good folks over at The Garage Street Journal love the chance to invite local legends into the garage studio. With the annual Avalanche Awareness Night coming up, we welcomed Than Acuff – who is not just a pretty face, but also a proud member of the board for The Crested Butte Avalanche Center – with open arms full of his ‘demands’, which were a bowl of green M&Ms, beef taquitos, Redbulls, and a Hooters Girl. Sitting with Than, we got to know the gentleman a little better and also the history of The Crested Butte Avalanche Center and his involvement with the organization. If anyone was on the fence about attending Avalanche Awareness Night, sit back, listen, and get filled with stoke because, as always, this event is going to be incredible.
Originally published in the Crested Butte News in 2018
Well that’s weird…. This past weekend, a large wet slab avalanche ran off Gothic Mountain’s east face. A wet slab avalanche is an avalanche that releases upon a wet layer buried within the snowpack. In this case, the wet layer formed from water draining into the snowpack from melt at the snow surface after 3 consecutive nights without a freeze, coupled with intense solar radiation. Reviewing the statewide avalanche occurrence database which goes back to 2010, this is the only wet slab avalanche observed in November, statewide. You can get more details about this unusual avalanche and other recent observations.
If I’ve learned anything about avalanches in the last 20 years, it’s that weird weather prompts weird avalanches. We’re off to a weird start. It’s not the lack of snow that strikes me as weird. It’s not the weak layers developing from paltry early season snow cover. What’s weird is the unseasonable warmth. On November 17th, our first big storm of the winter brought rain and lightning. Out in Gothic, billy barr measured the highest density storm snow ever recorded during November in his 50+ years of records. Long-standing daily high-temperature records came crashing down this past week. Locally we set new all-time maximums three days running on November 25, 26, and 27th. Lately, people have skied corn on sunny slopes where the snow is deep enough to travel. I saw blue jeans and tank tops in the lift lines at CBMR. Seriously, is this spring break??? Bottom line, it’s weird.
So what does this mean for the coming winter. Well, the sages haven’t written our fate in stone yet. At this point, I think we can count on persistent avalanche problems in our shady terrain once Mom Nature blankets the mountains in a slab of cohesive snow. What’s in question is how future snow will behave on the “shoulder” aspects of West and East, where the sun’s influence has created surprisingly supportive crusts. Will these crusts support the winter’s snowpack well, or will they allow a dangerous load to accumulate, failing deeply and catastrophically later in the winter? Only time will tell.
As we wait for winter to arrive, go ahead and get yourself prepared for the coming backcountry season by attending two great Crested Butte Avalanche Center events: