Authorities warn of avalanche risk on Grand Mesa

The Colorado Avalanche Information Center has announced certain parts of the Grand Mesa are in “considerable” danger of sustaining avalanches.

The center released an advisory Monday morning, effective through 10 a.m. today, warning travelers a winter storm could add 1 to 2 feet of snow to weak snowpack and increase the risk of man-made and natural avalanches.

The warning applies to slopes facing west, northwest, north, northeast, east and southeast near treeline and to slopes facing west, north and east below treeline.

“Considerable” avalanche danger is the third-highest level of danger on a five-point scale used by the Colorado Avalanche Information Center.

Natural avalanches are possible and human-triggered avalanches are likely when the avalanche danger is considerable, according to the center’s website.

Andy Brito, a U.S. Forest Service volunteer at Grand Mesa Visitor’s Center, said an avalanche or too much snowfall can close Colorado Highway 65 and, consequently, the visitor’s center. But the right amount of snow combined with regular snow removal by the Colorado Department of Transportation can attract more winter tourists because conditions are better for snowmobilers and cross-country skiers, among other winter outdoor enthusiasts.

“Today, we are open simply because we are getting the weather we need,” Brito said Monday. “The more snow we get up here, the more activity we’re going to get up here in the winter.”

The avalanche information center advises people traveling through an area with considerable avalanche danger to carefully evaluate snowpack and remain cautious while recreating in the area.

Powderhorn Mountain Resort spokeswoman Tricia Tittle said downhill skiers aren’t likely to be affected by the avalanche warning because of the positioning of the resort on Grand Mesa.

“Where we are there is not really an avalanche danger. That’s further up,” Tittle said.


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