COLORADO, Dec. 22, 2023 — The Colorado Avalanche Information Center has issued a Special Avalanche Advisory for the western and southern parts of the San Juan Mountains. A potent winter storm, the first phase of a two-pronged system, is expected to hit the region Friday night, creating dangerous avalanche conditions by Saturday morning.
Escalating Avalanche Hazard
The Southern San Juan Mountains are in the direct path of the incoming storm, with snowfall intensifying as the closed-low pressure system moves closer to Colorado. Snow totals from Friday night through Sunday mid-day could range from one to two feet in many areas, significantly increasing the avalanche hazard.
A second storm from the Pacific Northwest will shift the focus of heavier snowfall to the Northwest San Juan Mountains overnight on Saturday. This rapid loading onto a weak snowpack heightens the likelihood of triggering dangerous, potentially deadly avalanches.
Recent Avalanche Activity
The last significant avalanche reported in the Southern Mountains was during the previous storm cycle on December 14. Since then, warm, sunny weather has facilitated further weakening of the snow surface on north-facing slopes and the formation of crusts on south-facing slopes.
Avalanche Safety Tips
With the rising avalanche risk, it is crucial to exercise caution:
- Avoid Steep Slopes: Stay clear of steep terrain, especially areas with signs of unstable snow layers.
- Look for Warning Signs: Cracking, collapsing, or recent avalanche activity are key indicators of unstable snow.
- Be Prepared: Carry and know how to use avalanche safety equipment like a beacon, probe, and shovel.
- Travel One at a Time: In avalanche terrain, only one person should move through the area at a time to minimize risk.
- Stay Informed: Regularly check avalanche forecasts and updates at colorado.gov/avalanche.
The La Garita Mountains and the Sangre de Cristo Range are expected to receive lesser snow totals, with avalanche concerns limited to high-elevation areas.
Outdoor enthusiasts are urged to plan cautiously and stay updated on the evolving weather conditions this weekend to ensure safety.
Learn more at https://avalanche.state.co.us/