Another Pacific storm hammered Colorado over the weekend, dropping several feet of snow over the state’s southern mountains and up to a foot at the major resorts around Aspen, Vail and Summit County. Wolf Creek and Silverton Mountain were the big winners, reporting 40 inches in the 48 hours ending Sunday (Jan. 6) afternoon, but other areas also tallied impressive totals: 26 inches at Telluride, 29 inches at Purgatory, 36 inches at Crested Butte, and 24 inches at Monarch Mountain. Another few inches was expected Sunday night statewide. Check the Colorado ski report here.
The new snow has resulted in a significant avalanche hazard in the San Juan Mountains and the Gunnison zone, around Crested Butte, where avalanche warnings were in effect through 5 a.m., Jan. 7. Natural and triggered slides are likely in those regions, and the Colorado Avalanche Information Center is recommending against travel in or under steep terrain. Underscoring the warning, the Aspen Times reported that a large natural avalanche narrowly missed a group of backcountry skiers near the base of Pearl Pass Road.
In other avalanche news, the Vail Daily’s Edward Stoner penned a follow-up story on the recent death a 27-year-old snowboarder in the East Vail Chutes backcountry, describing how the deadly slide occurred near an area known as Charlie’s Death Chute. Other avalanches in the same terrain killed skiers in 1992 and 1996. The death also spurred a lively discussion about avalanche safety in a Teton Gravity Research forum.
Will it keep snowing? Nobody knows for sure, but at least one weather expert is standing by his earlier predictions of a dry spell in Colorado from late January through March, based on the impacts of La Niña conditions, with cooler than normal sea surface temperatures in the eastern Pacific.
“This La Niña is behaving a bit more like a typical La Niña, which is good news for the north-central mountains in early winter, mostly December and January,” said Klaus Wolter, a climate researcher with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). “So I would not be surprised if the next few weeks are still pretty decent (snowy), while late winter is when I expect to see a resumption of the dry pattern last seen in November.”
Wolter said his batting average for forecasting La Niña weather trends is not 100 percent.
“A wet late winter is not impossible, just fairly unlikely,” he said. “One factor in this could be the very strong intra-seasonal activity that brought us all that moisture in early December. I am definitely not equipped to predict those monster storms,” he said. “All in all, I would still say, enjoy while you can,” Wolter concluded.