Avalanche danger in Colorado moderate but changing

(Photo: Courtesy of Scientif38)
<p>The start of a powder snow avalance</p>
Avalanche Risk is Still High

Colorado avalanche forecasters are watching the move from winter to spring, when changing conditions can set off snow slides in previously stable areas.

Brian Lazar with the Colorado Avalanche Information Center says the state’s snowpack is right on the edge of that change of seasons.

"That transition period from kind of our dry winter snowpack to our springtime snowpack is a particularly interesting and attentive time for us because once we get water on these weak layers we often see them wake up and produce avalanches even if they haven’t for quite some time," Lazar says.

Avalanches have killed seven people in Colorado so far this winter.

At this time, though, the avalanche danger is only moderate for most of Colorado. However, this is the time of year that, when avalanches do occur, they can be more powerful.

The threat is somewhat higher in southern Colorado, where a snow slide killed a backcountry skier on Tuesday.

Forecaster Lazar says conditions are fairly typical, with new snow piling up on unstable layers below.

"The fact that these weak layers are getting buried deeper underneath strong snow makes them less likely to be triggered," Lazar says. "But because they’re buried deeper, when they do release they are much larger and more destructive."

He says the danger can increase near the start of spring, when the snowpack softens during the day and freezes overnight.