Perfect holiday ski conditions, avalanche control on passes


Updated 11:38 A.M.

Recent storms saved the holiday ski season in Pagosa Country, once again putting the high country at the top in terms of snow depth and conditions.

Visitors who came to the area ready to ski are in luck: the forecast calls for more snow during the week, adding to the potential for fun at Wolf Creek Ski Area and in the backcountry.

The forecast is for snow most of today, Monday, with snow continuing tonight. Snow totals from the storm are expected to be 2-4 inches at lower elevations.

Mostly cloudy skies are in the offing on Christmas Day, with snow showers possible Wednesday afternoon. A chance for snow showers remains for Thursday, with cloudy conditions expected Friday.

Daytime high temperatures through the week in Pagosa Springs are forecast in the low 30s and upper 20s, with nighttime lows at 10 degrees or less.

Snow conditions at Wolf Creek Ski area are excellent, with 100 percent of the mountain open. With 43 inches of snow in the last week, the area reports 55 inches at the summit and 53 inches base depth midway.

Skiers in the backcountry are urged to be cautious. According to the Colorado Avalanche Information Center, the primary avalanche problem today, Monday, remains persistent slabs. Skiers will likely find these slabs on steep northwest through east and southeast facing slopes near and below treeline. Triggering a persistent slab can result in an avalanche breaking near the ground. If this type of avalanche is triggered, it could be both large and destructive.

As the next storm moves through, storm slabs will become an increasing problem. More snow and wind will create shallow slabs of new snow, mostly in upper-elevation areas and on slopes that face the east side of the compass. The danger from storm slabs will increase this afternoon and could be a significant issue by Tuesday morning.

“A large storm system off the Pacific Northwest moved inland this weekend and will continue to bring snow to all passes through Christmas Day,” CAIC Forecaster Mark Mueller said. “Right now snowfall totals don’t look too impressive, so I don’t expect totals to exceed twelve inches anywhere, but we’ll keep an eye on it. More snow is expected later this week.” Meuller forecasts avalanche activity for U.S. 160 on Wolf Creek Pass, and SH 17 Cumbres and La Manga passes.

Wolf Creek Pass was closed this morning for just over an hour so CDOT crews could conduct avalanche control and clear the highway. The pass is open with the chain law in effect and snow-packed conditions.