Avalanche risk is considerable on Monday, but is forecasted to decrease to moderate for most of the mountains around Steamboat Springs on Tuesday.
A strong start to 2024 has the Yampa and White River Basin nearing average snow water equivalent after seeing snowfall that equals five inches worth of water since Jan. 4, according to data from the National Resource Conservation Service.
The basin as a whole is now at 99% of the 30-year median with 10.9 inches of water. This time last year, the basin was sitting at 16.2 inches of snow water equivalent. Across Colorado, the Colorado River Headwaters Basin is sitting at 103% of the median while the Gunnison River Basin is at 94% of the median.
There are some chances to add to the snowfall this week, though local meteorologist Mike Weissbluth reports that Steamboat Resort may only receive “meager accumulations.”
“The clouds and mild temperatures will be with us through the work week thanks to a series of relatively warm and disorganized Pacific weather systems,” Weissbluth wrote in his latest weather narrative at SnowAlarm.com. “While we may see flurries throughout the entire period, the best chance for some accumulating snowfall on the mid-mountain ski report at the Steamboat Ski Resort will be Monday, possibly Thursday, and Friday mornings.”
A wave forecast to move through the Yampa Valley between Thursday and Friday afternoon looks to produce the best snow, with accumulations reaching the 3 to 6 inches range. When looking out to next weekend, Weissbluth says a ridge of high pressure looks to set up over the West next weekend and bring sunny weather and warmer temperatures through the end of the month.
While new snow has bolstered river basins, it has also increased avalanche risk. According to reports from the Colorado Avalanche Information Center, there have been 31 reported avalanches in the Steamboat and Flat Tops zone since the start of the year. Those reports include three avalanches reported on Saturday — one on Rabbit Ears Pass and two more in North Routt County.
The Colorado Avalanche Information Center forecasts avalanche risk to be considerable on Monday, level three on the five-level scale denoting avalanche risk. For most of the mountains around Steamboat Springs, that risk is forecasted to decrease to moderate on Tuesday, though parts of North Routt and in the Flat Tops will remain under considerable risk.
The avalanche center asks backcountry skiers to pay special attention to slopes below the treeline, as avalanches have been running and connecting through trees.
“Below treeline is not a safer option currently,” the center’s forecast says. “These are areas where you may find dangerous terrain traps like creeks and roadcuts where a small avalanche could pile up really deeply.”