The buzz in the Colorado Rockies is all about the early season snowpack, ski area openings and October backcountry turns better than any in recent memory, according to locals like Scott Toepfer, a skier and avalanche forecaster with decades of experience in the mountains around Summit County. Already, several dozen slides have been reported or informally spotted, with more than 10 releases along the east side of the Tenmile Range, between Breckenridge and Frisco, Toepfer said. He added that warmer temperatures during the week helped settle the snow.
The first backcountry fatality of the snow season on Oct. 24 was not avalanche related. The Vail Daily reported that 32-year old Matt Horton probably died of natural causes while hiking up a popular backcountry play area near Vail Pass, along Interstate 70.
A winter storm warning in effect for nearly all of Colorado’s mountains. Check out NOAA’s infrared satellite imagery too.
All this new snow is probably inspiring Toepfer and the 100-plus snow-safety workers who pow-wowed at Copper this week at the annual Colorado Snow and Avalanche Workshop (CSAW), organized by the Colorado Avalanche Information Center.
The idea is to get meaningful information into the hands of supervisors and field-level operational snow-safety workers, including ski patrollers and highway forecasters. Some of the information presented is relevant for recreational backcountry skiers, the Summit Daily News reported. In the same story, long-time forecaster Dale Atkins also discussed some of the latest Swiss findings on the use of avalanche airbags, intended to keep potential victims afloat in the slide. The Denver Post also reported on the avalanche workshop.
Two local ski areas are open, A-Basin and Loveland. But even though opening day is still weeks away for the big Summit County areas, many of the trails at Breckenridge and Copper are gracefully marked by ascending zig-zags — the Yin — and sensuously dropping s-curves, just oozing Yang. Those skiers would be surprised to learn that a resort in Montana is asking residents to refrain from poaching the powder.
All eyes are on the southeastern storm, which promises to deliver a timely punch for Wolf Creek’s Oct. 27 opening. The area is reporting 57 inches total snowfall in September and October. Three lifts will operate with an all-natural 15-inch midway and 23-inch summit base depth.