Strong snowstorm pushes avalanche warning to ‘extreme’ level in Aspen | PostIndependent.com

Strong snowstorm pushes avalanche warning to ‘extreme’ level in Aspen

The snowstorm that amped up overnight Wednesday brought heavy, wet snowfall to the Aspen area with roads becoming treacherous and raised the avalanche danger to its highest level.

Aspen Skiing Co. reported 24-hour totals from 13 inches at Aspen Mountain to 22 inches at Aspen Highlands and 14 inches at Snowmass, and the snow continued to fall Thursday morning. The line for the Silver Queen Gondola at Aspen Mountain stretched down the plaza and around the corner for first chair.

The Aspen and Roaring Fork Valley areas remain in a winter storm warning through 6 p.m. Thursday, according to the National Weather Service. A road advisory has been issued for the Aspen area because of poor road conditions due to weather, according to a Pitkin County alert.

The Colorado Avalanche Information Center cranked the rating up to extreme on Thursday for the Aspen, Gunnison, Sawatch Range, Vail and Summit County zones. Extreme is as high as it gets.

The center also issued an avalanche warning for most of the mountainous areas of the state. It cited “exceptional avalanche conditions.”

“Every inch of avalanche terrain is extremely dangerous today,” the center posted on its website Thursday morning. “Avalanches are running to valley floors and some are exceeding historic run outs.”

The center said even areas that usually seem safe from avalanches should be avoided.

“Typical trails and routes may not account for the potential size and consequence of avalanches today,” the center said.

The Colorado Department of Transportation closed McClure Pass south of Carbondale on Highway 133 late Wednesday night because of avalanche danger.

Flights at the Aspen airport are being canceled or delayed. Power outages are being reported across Pitkin County, according to the Holy Cross Energy’s outage map.

Aspen School District canceled classes early Thursday morning as the storm started to intensify late Wednesday night.

This is a developing story that will be updated.