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Powerful winter storm plows into Vail, Beaver Creek

Avalanche watch in effect for Vail, Summit County

January 30, 2014, 6:30 am

A powerful winter storm moved into Colorado late Wednesday, producing steady snow at both Vail and Beaver Creek and depositing 5 inches of new snow at both ski areas as of 5 this morning.

The snow should continue throughout the day today, getting quite heavy later in the afternoon and lasting throughout the day Friday and into Saturday.

Blue Sky Basin Snow Stake

Snow was piling up rapidly by noon today (Vail Resorts photo).

“Snow has been falling at 1-2 inches per hour along I-70 since at least 4 a.m. and it doesn’t show signs of letting up,” Opensnow.com meteorologist Joel Gratz reported just before noon today. “The latest models show that a stronger wave of energy will move through late this afternoon and tonight.

“This will likely continue the heavy snow through the evening, then slowly shift it south of I-70 by Friday morning. However, another wave of energy will move through on Friday midday and evening, which could re-intensify the snow. In short, I’m crying that I’m in Denver right now and not skiing. If you’re skiing, I hope you brought the snorkel. I hear it’s becoming necessary …”

More than 2 feet of new snow is possible by Saturday morning, forecasters say.

There will no doubt be a lot of pent-up powder aggression after two relatively dry weeks in the Colorado high country, but the Colorado Avalanche Information Center (CAIC) on Thursday morning issued an avalanche warning for the Vail and Summit County area, as well as most other mountain areas:

“An Avalanche Warning is issued for the following zones: Steamboat, Front Range, Vail-Summit, and Sawatch,” the CAIC warned. “Snowfall developed Wednesday night with widespread 6 to 10 inch accumulations reported at 5am. Heavy snow is likely to continue through Thursday with another 8 to 12 inches predicted by this evening and additional accumulations overnight.

“Avalanche danger is quickly rising to the HIGH (Level 4) category. Natural and human-triggered slides will become likely on Thursday. Some of these may be very large and dangerous. Backcountry travelers are advised to stay well clear of all avalanche terrain on Thursday.”

Following an avalanche in the East Vail Chutes on Jan. 7 that killed Tony Seibert, the grandson of Vail founder Pete Seibert, there has been discussion throughout the community about possible backcountry closures. Proponents of backcountry access are advocating for increased education and extreme caution when exiting the ski-area boundary.

Go to Rocky Mountain Post for more information.

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