The great winter storm season is prompting avalanche warnings in the D.C. mountains

We know the avalanche warnings — our friends and family have experienced it when we’ve been hiking through the mountains here in Southwest Washington or along the Mt. Rainier National Park trails. But all…

The great winter storm season is prompting avalanche warnings in the D.C. mountains

We know the avalanche warnings — our friends and family have experienced it when we’ve been hiking through the mountains here in Southwest Washington or along the Mt. Rainier National Park trails. But all of a sudden, it’s basically forbidden to go out on the slopes.

With the snow pack at historic lows throughout the mountains, the National Park Service took preventive measures with travel bans from as far north as the snowy passes. The bans only in effect Friday into Saturday but some side roads were closed during the early part of the weekend.

And the traffic is heavier than usual, or at least heavier than usual on narrower roads (though as I’ve ridden, let’s face it, driving in an avalanche can be a lot of fun).

But the avalanche danger is considered to be high (much worse than normal and even statistically more deadly than usual) — the National Avalanche Center estimates the danger is the highest since 2008 — and there’s a chance of snow slides if you’re high in the mountains or near a glacial outflow.

Park officials decided to suspend all backcountry skiing as the winter season got under way because of the dangers it presents and because of just how long it would take to get back to normal after a snow-rain storm late last year. More importantly, it’s best to stay on the slopes until the forecast gets clearer.

“This is the worst of the weak snowpack (due to limited runoff and previous heavy snowfall, plus lingering warmer temperatures)” commented Grant Bosks. “Going to the upper passes will result in slashes and deep gullies and we may have several weak breaks. It’s possible a small slide will lead to far more deep holes. This means I might just have to go in blind.”

Clearly he’s aware of the danger. We’re not, and, of course, we can’t risk getting our feet stuck in an avalanche. At least we can’t risk being swept up in a sudden and terrifying maelstrom from the slope of a cliff.

Just stick to the edges for a few hours and go back. Don’t try to put down the ski goggles on unstable ground. And until the roads open again, you’re better off staying in the cottages or staying inside.

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