Snowpack 2019 and Avalanche Efforts

Trail Tip Tuesday – 2019 DEEP SNOWPACK and AVALANCHE EFFORTS – April 30, 2019. Though Segments 1, 2 and 3 have been passable (snow free) for weeks now, today’s April/May snowstorm might make them impassable again, as up to 15 inches of snow is in the forecast for the foothills and even more in the high country. Not to worry, though, because recent and expected warm temperatures will likely melt the new snow very quickly and Segments 1-3 will be open once again, probably within days. There are no other segments of the CT that we consider snowpack passable.

The avalanche impact zones are a different story.

Avalanche slide path and debris near Buena Vista affecting Colorado Trail Segment 13

Avalanche slide path and debris near Buena Vista affecting Colorado Trail Segment 13

There are unknowns still. We don’t know where all of the avalanche trouble areas are and we won’t likely know until a lot more snow melts and hikers find them and report. At this time, we only know about avalanche Trail problems, one near Buena Vista in CT Segment 13, and multiple zones near Copper Mountain in Segment 7.

We’re collaborating with the U.S. Forest Service. They’re also learning of problem areas on trails and roads like the avalanche debris piles that have closed 3 roads in vicinity of Salida and Mount Princeton Hot Springs. These blocked roads affect access to the CT Collegiate West. No one knows when enough snow will melt out of these debris piles to facilitate their removal and restore access.

When it comes to problems on The Colorado Trail itself, some efforts may be Forest Service alone, others might be handled by CTF volunteers, and some might be team efforts. Turns out most of the debris work can involve only small groups. This is because each work zone, the edge of each debris pile where the Trail disappears underneath, tends to get congested with a sawyer and a couple of swampers, helpers that remove cut debris. There are risks involving sketchy footing and moving debris. Safety will be paramount.

Additional workers can’t often work the middle of the pile because it is not known exactly where the trail lies underneath, plus it would involve safety hazards even larger than those at the pile’s edge.

The takeaway for Trail travelers is to expect these challenges both early season and, likely in many cases, well into the season. Assess each challenge and use careful, good judgement as to your approach. If you decide to walk across an avalanche debris pile, be very focused on your footing, etc. You don’t want to slip and drop into the debris that includes sharp wood and rocks. Hope this helps.