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For the week of Jan. 12 through Jan. 18, 2000

Snow cloaks valley

Roads closed; avalanche warning delays skiing

Express Staff Writer

j12snow5.jpg (12663 bytes)Two feet of new snow fell on the Wood River Valley and surrounding mountains Monday and Tuesday, closing area roads and elevating the danger of natural and human-triggered avalanches.

State Highway 20, from Highway 75 to Carey and from Carey to Craters of the Moon National Monument was closed.

Additionally, Galena Summit from Galena Lodge to the base of the north side of the pass was closed; and Highway 75 from Stanley to a point 13 miles down the Salmon River valley was buried and inaccessible to automobiles.

j12snow6.jpg (8263 bytes)Meanwhile, skiers piled up at the bases of Sun Valley Co.’s Bald Mountain as the ski patrol worked to clear avalanche danger. Skiers and snowboarders were allowed to board lifts after a one hour delay, at 10 a.m.

"We had quite a bit of [avalanche] activity all over the place," ski patrol director Bruce Malone said in an interview. "We had natural activity and activity caused by explosives and by ski cuts [to test the snow.] We’re still getting it now," he said at 12:30 p.m. yesterday.

Malone said the new snow enabled the ski patrol to open the entire front side of the mountain yesterday, and that it would be very likely that the bowls would open today.

"The skiing is deep and soft and getting better and better," he said.

According to the Sun Valley Avalanche Center’s avalanche report, the new snow piled up on the existing, weak layers and has resulted in "high" danger.

j12snow8.jpg (9305 bytes)"Our snowfall totals are really starting to add up at this time," the report stated. "In the last 24 hours we have received 21 inches of snow on the valley floor and over two feet above 9,000 feet. We’ve seen lots of wind…with gusts over 80 miles per hour on the ridge tops, which has transported a lot of new snow on a variety of old snow surfaces.

"Human triggered and natural avalanches are very possible today. If a backcountry slope is steep enough to make turns on, you are putting yourself and your skiing or boarding partners at a very high risk."

The avalanche center predicted another six inches of snow by nightfall yesterday. According to a National Weather Service forecast, snow should continue through the night and into tomorrow, though accumulations are expected to fall off from the rapid pace of Monday night.


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