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Avalanches Threaten Colorado’s High Country As Heavy Snowfall Continues

A near white out at the Snowmass Ski Area Monday.
Jeremy Swanson
Colorado Ski Country USA
A near white out at the Snowmass Ski Area Monday.

The avalanche danger in Colorado's mountains is very high as more snow falls, blown by gusty winds. Crews from the Colorado Department of Transportation are out in force, working to reduce the danger for motorists traveling in the high country.

I-70 is back open following a large avalanche on Vail Pass early Tuesday morning, but other roadways, including Wolf Creek and Loveland passes, were closed Wednesday as crews trigger slides to make the area safer.

"Often when we do bring down snow from an avalanche chute, sometime more snow comes down from what we anticipated, and it takes longer to get the roadway open," says CDOT spokesperson Bob Wilson.

Safety is the agency’s first priority, says Wilson -- which is why crews begin preventive measures at the first sign of a potential avalanche.

“The last that we need is for people to get stuck. We have to make sure we keep getting those slopes clear […] because once that snow starts flowing down to the highway, it can be too unpredictable for safety reasons.”

According to the Colorado Avalanche Information Center, the high moisture content in the region’s recent snowfall is weighing down the snowpack, causing dangerous conditions. Those conditions are the worst in the Gunnison area, which has been given a rare “extreme” risk rating.

Colorado’s mountains havereceived heavy snowfallsince early January -- delighting skiers and snowboarders -- at least when they can get there.

High winds and heavy, wet snow forced Crested Butte Mountain Resort to shut down its lifts Monday afternoon. Arapahoe Basin Ski Area was closed Wednesday because of the danger on Loveland Pass leading to the resort. A-Basin reported more than 2 feet of snow between Monday and Tuesday.

As the host of KUNC’s new program and podcast In the NoCo, I work closely with our producers and reporters to bring context and diverse perspectives to the important issues of the day. Northern Colorado is such a diverse and growing region, brimming with history, culture, music, education, civic engagement, and amazing outdoor recreation. I love finding the stories and voices that reflect what makes NoCo such an extraordinary place to live.
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