Wednesday’s big snowflakes were the first major sign of winter in Colorado’s high country and one organization is already warning powder hungry skiers to be wary of avalanches in the backcountry.
The Colorado Avalanche Information Center put out a statement on Wednesday warning of avalanches in October. Avalanche Forecaster Scott Toepfer says it’s not uncommon to see slides this early in the season and usually skiers are unprepared.
"What we hear from a lot of people who take rides in avalanches in October is, 'Wow, I really didn’t think there was enough snow to see avalanche activity.' And, that’s our primary reason for issuing our early season, statewide avalanche statement."
A healthy dose of snow last winter left snowfields behind that grew in size with recent storms in September and October. Toepfer says skiers and riders go out in search of these fields and in some cases, put themselves in danger.
"That old snow surface is close to being ice, so this new snow’s going to have trouble bonding and if you throw some people on top of it, that may be the instigator for bringing on some avalanches," says Toepfer.
With the latest storm, high winds could build snow slabs up to 18 inches deep above treeline, estimates Toepfer. He says it’s too soon to say whether Wednesday’s storm is an indication of a good snow year ahead.