CBAC Fireside Chats

2021 Fireside Chats

RobStrickland Backcountry Notes

Dec 20th- Wendy Wagner of the Chugach National Forest Avalanche Information Center.

Jan 7th- Dragons in the snow with Craig Gordon and Ed Power.

Jan 21st- Drew Hardesty, On the nature of forecasting… And why we get it wrong.

Feb 4th- Starr Jamison, Life after the Avalanche.

  • Recording PENDING

Feb 18th, 7-8:15 pm – Anne St. Clair, Canadian Forecaster Insights

  • Recording PENDING

Snodgrass Accident Report

CBAC 2020-21 Accidents, 2020-21 Observations, Accidents, Backcountry Notes

The accident investigation from the Snodgrass avalanche incident on December 15, 2020 is available here.

We do our best to describe avalanche accidents to help the people involved and the community as a whole better understand them with the hope that it will help people avoid future avalanche accidents. Thanks to everyone who responded to this incident and helped improve the outcome, and thank you to the party involved for sharing their story to turn it into a learning opportunity for all of us.

Fatal Accident Report from Anthracites

CBAC 2020-21 Accidents, 2020-21 Observations, Accidents, Backcountry Notes

The accident investigation from the avalanche fatality that occurred in the Anthracites on December 18th  is available here.

We do our best to describe avalanche accidents to help the people involved and the community as a whole better understand them with the hope that it will help people avoid future avalanche accidents. Our condolences go out to the friends, family, and all involved.

Weekly Summaries are underway!

CBAC Announcements, Backcountry Notes

Our CBAC interns, Jack Caprio and Jared Berman, will be producing weekly snowpack summaries every Friday under the guidance of our forecast staff.  The summaries are a great resource for tracking the evolution of the snowpack and avalanche activity over the course of the winter.  You can view the summaries under the “Observations” tab here or under the “Conditions Blog” tab on our forecast page. Below is a teaser of this week’s summary.

New forecast platform

CBAC Announcements, Avi Blog, Backcountry Notes

We have a few exciting changes to announce as we gear up for winter, including a new forecast platform and new forecast zones!

Forecast Platform

We are adopting the National Avalanche Center’s new forecast platform.  The new platform has some great upgrades for our users to help us better communicate our safety messages to you.

  • It’s mobile-friendly.  More and more of our users are now accessing the forecast from their phones. The new forecast pages will now adjust to fit your phone or tablet, making it easier to read our forecasts on the go.
  • Better media.  We now have the ability to add photos, videos, and captions within portions of the forecast to help illustrate avalanche problems or travel advice more clearly to you.
  • Bottom line and problem descriptions. While the basic layout of the forecast page will look similar to years past, this platform allows us to add a bottom line and problem descriptions.  The bottom line will highlight the key points of the forecast, and the problem descriptions allow us to provide dynamic travel advice for each avalanche problem as conditions evolve.
  • Conditions blog.  We’re experimenting with a “Conditions Blog” tab that can accompany the forecasts.  This is where we will provide weekly summaries and bonus material that supplements the forecast. More info for you at your fingertips!
  • Consistency.  There are about 8 or 9 other avalanche centers around the country that are adopting the same platform.  If you go skiing or riding in the Sawtooths, or Cascades, or Sierras, or any number of other mountain regions around the West, you can expect to see avalanche information presented in the same format as ours.  That makes it easier for you to digest the info and communicate with your partners.

New Forecast Zones

This map, which lives on our homepage, will show the daily avalanche danger rating for each of the two forecast zones. Clicking on a forecast zone will lead you straight to the forecast.

As most of our regular users know, the Crested Butte backcountry often develops into distinct snow climates: one with a deeper snowpack to the west and north of town, and one with a shallower snowpack near, east, and south of town.  In the past, we often use the text to describe nuances between the snow-favored parts of the forecast area and the drier parts of the forecast area.  Now, with our new forecast platform, we are integrating two forecast zones: the Northwest Mountains and Southeast Mountains.   This change allows our forecasters to better highlight spatial differences in the avalanche danger, travel advice, or size and distribution of avalanche problems.   We divided the zones based on our historical understanding of where the deeper and shallower snowpacks commonly develop.  Our homepage has a map of the forecast zones to reference these boundaries.   The Northwest Mountains include the snow belts of the Anthracite Range, Kebler Pass, Ruby Range, and Paradise Divide.  The Southeast Mountains include the drier parts of our forecast area such as Cement Creek, Brush Creek, the Gothic area, and some terrain close to town such as Red Lady Bowl, Climax Chutes, Coneys, and Snodgrass.  Our forecast team expects that there will be plenty of days where the forecasts for each zone will be exactly the same.  However, there will also be days where we highlight important differences.  For you, it’s simple. Click on the forecast map or select the forecast zone for the region that you plan to travel in for the day. That will lead you to the most current and relevant information.  Our detailed forecast discussion will be the same across both forecast zones to simplify the material for those folks who enjoy following the progression of the snowpack on a daily basis.  And as a reminder, these are regional forecasts that generalize conditions across a large area.  Although they should serve as a starting point for planning your day, you are responsible for assessing conditions on a slope by slope basis to minimize your avalanche risk.

Feel free to shoot us a message if you have questions about any of these changes!


Zach Guy

CBAC Lead Forecaster

Well that’s weird…. 

RobStrickland Backcountry Notes

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:

  1. 2018 Avalanche Awareness Night – December 8th.
  2. 2018 Beacon Brush Up – December 9th.