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Watch: Fun for the whole family at Rifle Rendezvous

The Rifle Rendezvous Festival offers entertainment for all ages in West Garfield County this weekend, with food, music, rides, and a variety of local vendors, from May 16 to 19 at the Garfield County Fairgrounds.

Here are some highlights from Friday evening:

Watch: Hope Center’s suicide prevention ‘Hopeline’ available to anyone, anywhere, anytime

Although technically called the Aspen Hope Center, Executive Director Michelle Muething, LPC emphasized that the nonprofit’s numerous crisis services extend to anyone from anywhere.

In 2009, the Depression Center in Denver conducted a roughly nine-month long analysis that identified gaps in mental health services.

“The Hope Center is a product of that research study,” Muething said of the Aspen Hope Center, which was founded one year later in 2010. “Our focus is crisis; that was the biggest gap that was found — access to mental health services in times of immediate need.”

Local crisis support 

The Aspen Hope Center’s “24-Hour Hopeline,” one of its numerous services, guarantees that anyone experiencing a crisis can speak with an on-call clinician around-the-clock, seven days a week.

“They’re amazing,” Muething said of the crisis clinicians. “The crisis clinicians are this beautiful blend of therapists, investigators, advocates and grief supporters, and they do whatever is called for on scene in order to mitigate the crisis that they are standing in front of.”

Suicide statistics in Garfield County

Since 2015 in Garfield County, 58 people died by suicide, according to Garfield County Public Health. Additionally, 27 percent of those 58 people suffered from anxiety, 47 percent were diagnosed with depression, and half told someone they were considering suicide.

“If someone makes a statement about wanting to die or specifically says, suicide in general, never brush it off,” Muething said.

“For someone to actually speak those words, there is a reason behind it,” she said. “You find a lot of people will say, ‘Well, what if it’s just for attention?’

“And my answer is, if someone has to speak those words to get attention they are in a lot of pain.”

Also according to Garfield County statistics, of those 58 lives lost to suicide, 83 percent were men, 17 percent were women and 53 percent used a firearm.

Muething said that over the last eight years, the Aspen Hope Center had formed tight partnerships and co-response protocols with local law enforcement.

The efforts allowed professionals from the Aspen Hope center to go out on scene, many times in peoples’ own living rooms, as opposed to being transported in a sheriff’s vehicle or ambulance to the Emergency room.

“And, we prevent an ER bill, because you don’t need to be in an emergency room if you don’t have a medical issue,” Muething said. “We see people at home and are able to link them to services in the community immediately.”

Help Someone Else

The Hope Center has two locations, in Basalt, as well as the Eagle River Valley office in Eagle.

Both receive calls from all over the state, and at times from other parts of the country. Muething stressed how people can call on a friend or loved ones behalf.

“People will say ‘Should I tell them that I called you?’” Muething said of those colleagues, friends or loved ones that call the Hopeline out of concern that someone close to them might take their own life.

“We say, absolutely, don’t ever lie,” she said. “Telling someone that you reached out on their behalf speaks volumes about how concerned you are about them.”

If you or a loved one experiences suicidal thoughts, you can call the Aspen Hopeline at (970) 925-5858.

“There is no such thing as, I am sorry I can’t help you or I am sorry we don’t do that,” Muething said.

mabennett@postindependent.com

Runaway truck ramps near Silverthorne are the most frequently used in the state

For those of us who live among the winding and often steeply graded roadways of the Rocky Mountains, seeing passenger vehicles spun out in the snow or semitrucks pulled over to the side of the road while drivers strap on chains are frequent sights.

For most, winter is the most treacherous time of the year on Summit County’s roads. But in the summer, as the sun pounds against the blacktop on Interstate 70, truckers traveling through the corridor face other perilous challenges: speed and heat.

Colorado’s truck ramps made news late last month after a truck descending from the mountains crashed into the back of stopped traffic near Denver West Parkway, killing four. The driver, Rogel Aguilera-Mederos, who allegedly chose not to use a runaway ramp, was charged with 40 counts, including four counts of vehicular homicide as a result of the crash. Just a day later, a video captured by Jesse Terrell of a smoking truck rocketing up a ramp near Silverthorne began making the rounds on social media.

While the use of the runaway truck ramps may seem somewhat rare, even for those who travel I-70 often, officials say they’re more common than we might think.

“The latest figures that we have show that (truck ramps) have been used at least 57 times since 2016, according to Colorado State Patrol Reports,” said Tamara Rollison, a communications manager with the Colorado Department of Transportation. “Though that doesn’t reflect all the usage, or all the times we’ve observed trucks on the ramps.”

Rollison said that of the 13 runaway ramps in the state, the two most frequently used are on westbound I-70 on the west side of the Eisenhower/Johnson Memorial Tunnels, at mile posts 209 and 212 just outside of Silverthorne.

“They’re actually used quite frequently year-round, but obviously more in the summer,” said Colin Remillard, a spokesman with the Colorado State Patrol. “I’d say in the middle of the summer, when it’s hot, sometimes we see it multiple times a week. I’ve even been in the ramp dealing with a truck when another one comes in.”

Remillard said that while some trucks make their way onto the ramps due to mechanical failures, a vast majority of truckers using the ramps have brakes that overheat due to the temperature on roads and friction caused by excessive braking.

“Usually what they’re supposed to be doing is coming out of the tunnel down multiple gears, and only use the brakes occasionally,” said Remillard. “A lot of these truckers don’t drive around here frequently, so they just keep holding the brakes or pumping them … once they burn up the brakes, they can’t stop and they keep picking up speed.”

While passenger vehicles have a 60 mph speed limit coming out of the tunnel, semitruck drivers are only allowed to go 35 mph. Though Remillard said that drivers are constantly exceeding that limit, in large part because many aren’t experienced driving the area, they’re following the speed limits on their GPS devices and aren’t prepared for the drop in elevation on the west side of the tunnel.

“Especially in warm weather, troopers up here can stop trucks going over that limit all day long,” said Remillard. “And I think despite the fact that there’s signs in the tunnel it does take some by surprise. People get going way too fast, and they come out of Denver where the whole way is up. I don’t think they’re prepared for it.”

Both Remillard and Rollison noted that runaway truck ramps — built from heavy gravel — are very effective in stopping a truck in their tracks, and neither could recall any instances of major injuries or fatalities occurring on a ramp. Remillard noted that it’s also exceedingly rare for a driver to receive a citation for using the ramp, as officials don’t want to dissuade the use of safety precautions.

Still there are some repercussions. Remillard said on top of towing costs — from miniscule to as much as $30,000 if it’s up high, jackknifed and pinned against the ramp — using the ramp may also affect the company’s federal safety rating, impacting issues surrounding insurance and regulations. But compared to the alternative, runaway truck ramps are an excellent escape option for truck drivers.

CDOT offers a number of resources to help truck drivers prepare for driving in the mountains, including a dedicated page on COTrip.org to educate truckers, and a Colorado Truck Parking Guide, which outlines safety standards and maps runaway truck ramps.

“They’re really essential,” said Remillard. “These trucks are very heavy, dangerous weapons. And a lot of people ignore the signs. But they’re there for a reason. Most of the truckers are pretty good about it, and when they’re really out of control they end up taking a runaway ramp. It works, but when it isn’t used the results can be catastrophic.”


Forest Service and local officials praise Hanging Lake shuttle

The sun was shining but snowflakes were falling as officials held a ribbon cutting ceremony for the launch of the Hanging Lake shuttle system.

Wednesday marked the first day of access by reservation to the Hanging Lake trail in Glenwood Canyon. Reservations can be made online for $12.

Trail visitors must make reservations to hike the trail during any time of the year. Between May 1 and Oct. 31, they must either bike to the trail or take a shuttle that departs from a Welcome Center at the Glenwood Springs Recreation Center.

Local officials, U.S. Forest Service rangers, and representatives of state and national politicians spoke at a ribbon cutting ceremony at the Hanging Lake Welcome Center, housed in the ice rink next to the Glenwood Springs Community Center.

Watch

Current Glenwood Springs Mayor Jonathan Godes and former Mayor Michael Gamba both headed up the trail to Hanging Lake, along with more than a dozen others.

“I haven’t hiked it since 2011, when it got crazy,” Gamba said of the often-crowded trail — a situation that led to the new reservation and shuttle system, as well as the daily visitor cap of 615 people.

A new era

The new reservation system is the result of at least six years of planning by the Forest Service, the City of Glenwood Springs and others. After visits to the trail began to increase around 2011, officials began to worry about overuse damaging the trail, as well as visitors violating the rules — such as swimming in the lake, hopping on the fallen log that sits across the lake, and bringing pets.

The Forest Service nearly closed the trail in 2017 when graffiti was found along the way to the lake, and stationed a number of rangers in the parking lot to handle traffic and other concerns.

Parking won’t be an issue during the peak months anymore with the reservation system, as the lot is closed for the summer. The maximum number of visits per day is 615, and will be staggered throughout the day.

The system also means hospitality and tourism companies can advertise the hike without worrying about potential damage to the natural wonder.

“It’s a source of pride and beauty for our citizens, and a boon to the tourism economy,” Godes said. “We have come really close to loving this asset to death.”

“This shuttle system will ensure that all are able to experience this asset, this gem, in a wilderness-like setting,” Godes said.

As of Wednesday, 11,000 people had reserved a time to hike Hanging Lake this summer, Godes said.

“It’s taken years of hard work and negotiations to get where we are today,” Gamba said.

The previous City Council felt strongly that Glenwood Springs should have an active role in Hanging Lake, as it was a city park prior to 1972 when it became part of the White River National Forest.

Changes can already be seen.

At the trailhead Wednesday, the parking lot was empty besides Forest Service vehicles and the Hanging Lake shuttles.

The Colorado Department of Transportation installed three traffic gates Tuesday afternoon to block the exit from Interstate 70 at the Hanging Lake rest area, which will be closed to all but official vehicles from May through October.

The shuttle buses are equipped with transponders so the gates automatically open as the vehicle approaches the off-ramp.

Live from the Hanging Lake Welcome Center with remarks by the City of Glenwood Springs on the start of the new Hanging Lake shuttle and reservation system.

Posted by Glenwood Springs Post Independent on Wednesday, May 1, 2019
Watch the Hanging Lake Welcome Center ceremony inaugurating the new shuttle. Mayor Jonathan Godes, former Mayor Michael Gamba, Department of Natural Resources Executive Director Dan Gibbs and Eagle/Holy Cross Deputy District Ranger Marcia Gilles gave remarks.

Among the first

Kyle Blackman and Kendra Moody, of San Diego, were among the first to take to the trail Wednesday morning, and experienced a quiet hike that would be unheard of for the first of May in recent years.

Moody, who used to live in Grand Junction, remembers feeling angry about the damage some visitors caused to the trail.

“When it got closed up because of graffiti, it was an absolute shame,” Moody said.

The couple reserved their place on the shuttle Tuesday evening, and happened to be on the first bus trip under the new system.

It was Blackman’s first trip to the lake.

“We got up there, the snow was falling,” Blackman said. “It was a gorgeous winter scene.”

The collaboration fits with several of the Forest Service’s goals of supporting and connecting with local economies, protecting important and special places, and providing quality experience to public lands visitors, and serves as a model for future projects, said Brian Ferebee, regional forester for the Rocky Mountain Region.

“This is an excellent model when we talk about shared stewardship,” he said

Eagle-Holy Cross District Ranger Aaron Mayville gave the hikers a taste of what visitors to the lake will experience in the months to come.

“We’re obviously celebrating a milestone here, the end of a very long, sometimes difficult, sometimes fun, planning process,” Mayville said before leading the group up the trail.

“But we’re also celebrating the beginning. … This next phase is an exciting one. And I’m happy to say this lake and trail will be around for generations to come,” he said.

Sunday profile: Patti’s stars aligned when she found her calling in the mineral world

There’s a small sign directly inside the front door at High Country Gems and Minerals in downtown Glenwood Springs that has two simple words — “please touch.”

It’s just low enough on the inside of a large, elongated split geode crystal to catch the eye of the younger among the visitors to the shop owned for the past 11 years by Patti “Rock Star” Neuroth.

“I often have to remind people that it’s OK for the kids to touch and feel,” said Neuroth, who has been part of one of Glenwood’s oldest locally owned shops for 19 years; the first eight under previous owners Matt and Anita Macqueen.

“The adults kind of freak out, but the kids understand it. That’s how they learn,” Neuroth said. “We want to set them up for an adventure in here, and establish the fact that this is not a normal store.”

Indeed, there’s nothing normal about the little rock store at 311 Eighth Street — or its owner, for that matter.

Both are bursting with energy. It’s an energy Neuroth says emanates from the rocks, minerals and fossils (including 15-million-year-old megladon shark teeth) inside her store. By the accounts of countless visitors, it’s that energy that tends to draw them inside, she said.

A white star that’s inset in the entryway at the store — carved by longtime area hard rock miner Robert Congdon — forebodes one of the many treasures people will find inside.

Neuroth tries hard not to let anyone out the door before they’ve heard her story of the star geode that resides at the shop — a special find at one of the many rock shows she has attended over the years, and one that fits her persona perfectly.

Watch

Rock of ages 

Neuroth took on the “Rock Star” moniker several years after deciding to go full in to learn about geology after she began working for the Macqueens at the turn of the 21st century.

“I had quit a job I hated in Aspen, and had some limited funds to take some time off to do some things for me,” she said. “When it came time to get a job, I was asking the universe, ‘where do you want me?’”

Having lived in downtown Glenwood Springs on Bennett Avenue for many years, going back to her self-described “hippie days,” Neuroth had always been curious about the rock shop on Eighth Street. 

One day, she met former owner Matt Macqueen and he began talking about rocks and showing her maps of where to find certain types of rocks and gems.

“At the end of the conversation, he says, ‘hey, would you like a job?’ I thought, ‘well, that’s weird,’ but the answer is yes,” Neuroth recalled.

For a time, she worked part time at the rock store and part time at a bath accessories shop that also resided in downtown Glenwood at the time. 

But it was the world of geology that sparked a passion she carries to this day. She began taking classes with geology instructor Gary Zabel at Colorado Mountain College, going on field trips into Glenwood Canyon and throughout the region to learn about the rock world.

“It was difficult to go back to college and learn all of that, but it was fun, because he made it fun,” she said.

Energy within

Several years prior to that experience, the Tulsa, Oklahoma transplant had made the decision to get sober, which she also credits with setting her on the right path.

“I finally matured enough to learn how to think better,” she said. “There’s also this connection with what I consider to be spirit …

“I’m working with minerals all day long, so everything is energy, frequency, vibration. That’s what it’s all about.”

When the Macqueens — now owners of Sioux Villa Curio shop on Sixth Street — decided to sell the rock shop, Neuroth was the obvious, and willing, successor.

“Just recently, I called them to thank them for this opportunity,” she said. “I still look back on all this and go, ‘wow.’”  

When not at the store, she spends a lot of her time at rock shows around the country, including large ones in Tucson, Arizona and one in Denver each year. There, she has made a lot of connections when it comes to merchandise, but she has also established friendships and met a lot of characters.

“It’s an amazing immersion, because there are so many people who know so much,” she said. “Every show, I see minerals I haven’t seen before. And, you get to hang out with miners, the people who actually dig it. That is really where it’s at.

“There’s always a Colorado section of miners, and I get invited to their claims and buy from them directly.”

Destination shop

High Country Gems and Minerals has been in the same location for 48 years, founded by Lee and Peggy Mestas in 1971 before changing hands to the Macqueens in the early 1990s, and then to Neuroth in 2008.

“We’re kind of a lighthouse, and I think people do seek us out,” she said.

Inside the shop, the wall behind the register is graced with pictures of days gone by, including one of all three owners together that was taken a few years before Lee Mestas’s death at age 99.

“That was a very sacred moment for me,” Neuroth said.

A guest register contains sayings and photos from visitors going back through the years, including multiple generations of families who have stopped in on return trips to Glenwood Springs.

“That book is so special to me, because it’s real connections with people,” Neuroth said.

The store was also included in a segment of the Colorado-based reality TV show, Prospectors.

After purchasing the business, Neuroth did an extensive remodel of the store and added the back area to her lease, which used to be the kitchen for the old Glenwood Cafe. There, the store hosts a variety of classes and other small events.

Other personal touches include a “fairy garden,” which is graced with different figurines of fairies and gnomes.

And, of course, the star geode.

Neuroth said she came across the geode at one of the rock shows, which had already been split open to reveal a perfect, seven-point star. That’s rare, she said, because if it had been cracked at any other point on the rock, it would have been completely different.

In any case, she had to have it.

Future star

“It’s all just so fascinating,” Neuroth adds. “How can you look at any of this, and not know there’s some intelligence behind the whole thing.

“If this doesn’t bring you awe, what will? And I’m surrounded by it everyday.”

Helping Neuroth in the shop and at the rock shows is Sara Pomey, who began working at High Country shortly before Neuroth purchased the business. She has designs on buying the business herself one day, when Neuroth is ready to pass it along.

Pomey said she has had a love for rocks since she was a child, collecting rocks while out on her bike and trying to figure out a way to haul them home.

“I can’t think of anything else that I would want to do more,” Pomey said. “There’s always more to learn, and more to do. Here, I feel like I’m absolutely free to be who I am, 100 percent every day, and just be present with the people who come into the store.”

jstroud@postindependent.com

Watch: Bear gets euthanized in Grand County after conflict with homeowner

A bear injured during a conflict with a homeowner in the Fraser area had to be euthanized last week, according to Colorado Parks and Wildlife.

This marks the first time this year that a bear, in this case an adult male black bear, had to be euthanized in Grand County, according to Jeromy Huntington, district wildlife manager with Colorado Parks and Wildlife.

Just before 3 a.m. April 11, a homeowner heard a noise coming from his garage in the forested neighborhoods on the plateau southwest of the Safeway store in Fraser. Huntington said the homeowner has experienced previous bear conflicts on his property and anticipated a bear being the source of the noise.

After the homeowner discovered the bear in his garage, he attempted to scare it away. The homeowner “felt cornered between the bear and his house” and fired his .45 Long Colt at the animal, striking it in the leg, Huntington said.

The homeowner contacted officials from Colorado Parks and Wildlife who responded to the scene and began tracking the injured bear.

After several hours of search, state authorities located the bear near the Fraser River behind the East Grand Fire District’s Fraser firehouse. State officials euthanized the bear at around 2 p.m. that day.

The meat from the bear was salvaged and donated to a family from Kremmling. Its hide will be auctioned off by the state.

No Citation

State authorities determined the homeowner was acting to protect his property and in self-defense and therefore he received no citation or ticket.

The bear was euthanized primarily because it was already injured, however, Huntington explained that Colorado Parks and Wildlife’s official policy for human-bear conflicts requires euthanization for all bears that break into occupied dwellings. The garage the bear broke into, he said, had a pedestrian access door with a lever handle, which makes it easier for bears to attempt to access. It also had a coded lock system, but it was not engaged when the bear broke into the premises, he added.

Huntington said the bear was attempting to access a garbage can that was stored inside the garage at the time. While Colorado Parks and Wildlife does recommend homeowners store garbage can in garages rather than outdoors during overnight hours, Huntington said additional precautions are often warranted.

“Even in a garage, bears can get through the doors, or siding,” he said. “If it is made out of wood, it won’t keep bears out.”

Garages made from heavy construction materials can prevent bears from breaking in, but the lighter shed-like garage structures can be broken into. According to Huntington, a bear in the Winter Park area broke through the siding of a detached garage in the Fraser Valley earlier this year while attempting to access garbage.

“Bear’s don’t just come from the wild and enter someone’s house,” he said. “They become habituated over time through easy access to food sources, mostly trash and bird feeders.”

Events like these, while unfortunate, are not uncommon.

Be bear aware

Last year, Colorado Parks and Wildlife had to euthanize four bears in Grand County and sedated and relocated one additional bear.

“It is up to the community to protect bears, they can do that by being bear aware,” Huntington said, noting his frustration with ongoing bear conflicts that are largely related to homeowners leaving garbage cans or bird feeders out at night. “The biggest thing I see up here is there are a lot of places with plastic lids on dumpsters. We need to find a way to keep bears out of the trash.”

A bear relocated from Steamboat Springs was killed by CPW officers April 8 after it disturbed a farmer’s beehive near Meeker. It was the first bear the agency had destroyed in the state this year.

Kris Middledorf, the Steamboat area’s wildlife manager, assisted in the bear’s relocation and was disheartened to learn of its death, according to the Steamboat Pilot & Today.

“It’s the worst day for wildlife officers who go into this business to conserve wildlife, and then, they have to go put an animal down,” Middledorf said.

Middledorf posted an update on the incident on Colorado Parks and Wildlife’s Facebook page Thursday morning, urging local residents to be vigilant about securing their trash and other wildlife attractants, as well.   

Watch

Editor’s note: We decided to show this video, which was taken from a neighbor’s security camera in relation to the April 11 bear in Fraser, to show what can happen if you don’t take actions to prevent bears from accessing items at your home, such as open garbage containers or bird feeders.


Watch: Pond skim contest helps Sunlight Mountain Resort faithful close out 2018-19 season

Sunlight Mountain capped a snow-filled season with a party to end all parties Sunday at the ski area outside of Glenwood Springs.

With another bluebird Colorado day on hand, skiers and riders flocked to the mountain for one last chance to get a few turns in before stowing the gear for the season.

Live music entertained the crowd on the deck, while they soaked up the near 60-degree temperatures that found their way into the mountain valleys of the Western Slope.

After a season filled with loads of the white stuff — Sunlight recorded over 200 inches of snow this season — what better way to end the year than a traditional pond skim competition.

After a three-year hiatus, the skim was back in a big way Sunday, with over 70 brave souls willing to try chilly waters near the base of the mountain.

At 80 feet long and 4 feet deep, it was daunting task for many.

One of the first few competitors to make it all the way across was Glenwood Springs resident Curtis Madden, who glided over the pond in style fit for the prom.

Donning a black sequined dress, he skimmed across the pond with the grace of the waltz.

Madden picked up the dress when the Glenwood Springs Library was offering free prom dresses.

“I’ve been looking for a reason to put it on, and the skim seemed like the right event to break it out,” Madden said.

“I’m really happy about making it across this year,” Madden added.

The last time Madden tried the pond skim, he came up a bit short.

“I did it four years ago, when it was 15 degrees, and they were chipping the ice away with a chisels,” he said.

Another competitor, Shane Spyker of Glenwood Springs, used the power of the mythical unicorn and a lot of speed to prance across the cool waters at Sunlight Mountain Sunday.

“I just knew I needed speed, so I used the entry jump to my advantage, and went straight across,” Spyker said. “I was happy not to be swimming in the water.”

Glenwood residents Chase and Wynter Corte couldn’t get enough of the pond skim action Sunday, but from the spectator side of things.

“This has been pretty entertaining,” Wynter Corte said. “The snow has been great this year.”

Added Chase, “I think it’s awesome, I was talking about doing it earlier, but I didn’t realize you had to sign up.

“This is our first last day of the season, we’ve been here for about four years, and we’ve had season passes every year,” he added.

kmills@postindependent.com

Watch: Glenwood City Council candidates answer student questions

The Post Independent, in partnership with a Colorado Mountain College photojournalism class, interviewed the six candidates running for two contested Glenwood Springs City Council seats, up for grabs in the April 2 municipal election.

Led by instructor Joseph Gamble, students researched the current expectations and concerns of local residents, including affordable housing, short-term vacation rentals, construction projects, and the proposed streets sales tax.

All candidates were asked the same questions, and were filmed in their preferred locations over the last several weeks.

At-large candidates


Ward 3 candidates

WATCH: Drone footage of Peak 1 avalanche near Frisco

Summit County photographer Tripp Fay captured this amazing drone footage of the avalanche off Peak One on Thursday. The massive avalanche near the J Chute — just off of Rainbow Lake — tore through the landscape, stripping trees and leaving a gigantic white scar on the side of the peak.

Here's a closer look at the new avi chute on Peak One in Frisco!

Posted by Tripp Fay on Thursday, March 7, 2019

Watch: Video catches avalanche ripping through Interstate 70

A man traveling through Colorado’s Rocky Mountains on Sunday morning captured a powerful natural event on his smartphone.

Driving to Glenwood Springs for a vehicle recovery, Brandon Ciullo was on Interstate 70 when he saw an avalanche rip through Ten Mile Canyon between Frisco and Copper Mountain.

The interstate remained open after the nearby avalanche.

The Colorado Department of Transportation was doing some avalanche-mitigation work along the I-70 corridor on Sunday, but the agency was not aware of any avalanche-related injuries or closures, a department spokesperson said.

However, I-70 at the Eisenhower Tunnel was closed Sunday as a safety precaution.

The heavy snowfall prompted the Colorado Avalanche Information Center to issue an avalanche warning for the northern and central mountains effective into Monday morning. For a detailed avalanche forecast, go to Colorado.gov/avalanche.