Storms increase avalanche risk |

Storms increase avalanche risk

Emma Garrard/ Sierra SunAndy Anderson, avalanche forecaster for the Sierra Avalance Center, pushes down on a test slope, a minature version of a larger avalance slope, creating a slab of snow on the north side of Mt. Judah Tuesday morning. Anderson was checking the conditions in the backcountry for the avalance forcast.

Recent storm activity has increased avalanche danger substantially in the Truckee-Tahoe area.

The Sierra Avalanche Center released a “high” avalanche hazard rating Tuesday due to the recent snow accumulation and high winds. The high avalanche danger was in effect for areas above tree-line on leeward (away from wind) slopes 32 degrees and steeper. The center also included a “considerable” rating for areas below tree-line in open areas 35 degrees and steeper.

“In the last five days we’ve had over 50 inches of new snow,” said Andy Anderson, an avalanche forecaster for the Sierra Avalanche Center. “And 50 mile-per-hour winds moved snow from windward to leeward sides, so there are very large wind slabs that would be fairly easy to trigger.”

Anderson said Tuesday that today’s avalanche danger may slightly decrease as snow settles, but the danger also depends on the overnight snowfall.

Examples of high-risk areas include the leeward sides of Mount Judah, Elephants Peak near Carson Pass, and Relay Peak in the Mount Rose area, Anderson said.

Will Paden, the avalanche forecaster for Squaw Valley U.S.A., said intensive avalanche control has been running in 12-hour shifts for the last few days, using explosives to bring snow levels down.

Expectations for an additional 10 to 18 inches today above 7,000 feet mean avalanche control efforts will likely continue at the same pace, Paden said.

“It will keep us on our toes for avalanche control,” he said.

Paden said he recommends skiing or snowboarding with a buddy and an avalanche beacon when snow conditions are like this, even in-bounds at ski resorts.

Anderson recommended sticking to the resorts and staying out of the backcountry while the avalanche risk is high, or at least sticking to lower, less-steep areas.

“I wouldn’t want to get out on a 32-degree slope up higher,” he said. “It will be a great day for skiing in the trees or staying at the resorts.”

For more information and current updates on avalanche risk, go to

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