“Historic” Natural Avalanche 1-Mile Wide and 3,000-Feet Long Occurs Near Aspen Highlands, CO

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Historic-sized avalanche off Highlands Ridge. Avalanche broke over a mile wide and ran over 3000 vertical feet taking out large swaths of forest. Credit: CAIC

The Colorado Avalanche Information Center is reporting that a “historic” avalanche has slid from Highlands Ridge into the valley below on a path that took snow 3,000 feet down the hill. They estimate that the slide took out “hundreds if not thousands of trees.” An observer with the CAIC says an unoccupied home near Conundrum Creek was also damaged by the 1-mile wide slide, despite being protected by defensive structures.

The massive avalanche on Highlands Ridge released naturally and had multiple start zones and feeder paths that all shared a common runout. The slide stretched from an area known as the Five Fingers to the K Chutes. Debris is said to have crossed Conundrum Creek, and the avalanche gained so much momentum on the over 3,000-foot vertical drop that it traveled uphill several hundred feet on the opposite side of the creek, taking out even more trees.

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Historic-sized avalanche off Highlands Ridge. The house in the bottom of the image is protected by a defensive wedge but still suffered damage like a destroyed chimney shattered, windows, and maybe more. Credit: Telluride Helitrax.

This slide occurred near Aspen Highlands terrain and according to the report, nearly every path off of the ridge slid, including all of the “Five Fingers Run.”
As far as size goes, this avalanche was huge – R5, D4.5. The “R5” portion of that rating means that the avalanche was the maximum size relative to the path of the slide. The “D4.5” portion of that rating means that the slide is capable of destroying homes, large vehicles or train cars, or large swaths of forest. In other words, this was a big one.

Colorado remains in the middle of a historic avalanche cycle due to a series of winter storms that dropped four to eight feet of snow in less than 10 days in the mountains. Hundreds of avalanches have been reported, some large enough to stop traffic, close major highways, shut down ski resorts, and have resulted in deaths. Aspen continues to be one part of the state that’s been hit hard by avalanches, with more than 300 taking place in the first week of March.

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Current Colorado Avalanche danger. Credit: CAIC

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One thought on ““Historic” Natural Avalanche 1-Mile Wide and 3,000-Feet Long Occurs Near Aspen Highlands, CO

  1. On the bright side: Firewood for thousands, rafting in high water and replenishing water table and lake levels!

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