I can confirm that the rumors are true… winter is far from over at higher elevations! With that comes the continued potential for natural and human triggered avalanches.
We got out for a ride near Golden yesterday. Once we hit about 1900m we started finding cold, dry snow on shaded slopes! It took a bit to readjust to brief periods of not being able to see where we were going but we did ok!
There was evidence of a recent natural avalanche cycle on many steep, open slopes in both the treeline and alpine elevation bands. Some appeared to be caused by loading from the wind, others by rapid warming on solar slopes. No matter the aspect, the failures ranged in depth from 20cm up to about 80cm in wind loaded areas. The avalanches were running on what I suspect was facets or surface hoar above a melt-freeze crust from early this month.
As we ventured further we saw first-hand how touchy this weak layer was… We’d set up shop on a piece of high ground overlooking several small play areas. One rider starting climbing a North East facing slope. Some over-the-head downhill turns encouraged another lap! After the second pass he rejoined the group and another rider took a turn, getting stuck high on the slope but easily got himself out. He headed up for another lap. During his climb back up for his third pass; another rider; not realizing he was headed back up, took a poke at the hill from the other side… Neither knew the other was there until they met near the middle of the slope while descending. Good slope test?
They both cleared the slope and met with the group about the near miss. The first rider fired back up again and took another poke. This time he climbed higher than the others, getting quite close to some rocks and the bottom of the convex portion of the slope… (read 2 common trigger points).
As he started his descent he saw the slope failing in front of him, enough snow moving to result in a healthy size 2 avalanche. He managed to accelerate away from the debris and rejoined the group.
Again, at treeline and above, winter is far from over. After such a long period of moderate to low hazard it’s easy to become complacent and not recognize the potential for avalanches the snowpack still has. Stay safe out there!