Heavy Snow Creates High Avalanche Danger on the San Francisco Peaks

Jan 24, 2017

More than seven feet of snow has fallen in recent days in the upper elevations of the San Francisco Peaks. Arizona Public Radio’s Ryan Heinsius reports, it’s created dangerous avalanche conditions in the backcountry.

A ski patroller glides through the more than seven feet of snow that's recently fallen on the upper elevations of the San Francisco Peaks.
Credit Arizona Snowbowl

The Kachina Peaks Avalanche Center says the high-elevation snowpack is very unstable following three recent storms. The group has observed several natural avalanches in the Inner Basin and near Mount Humphreys. KPAC says such a large amount of snow in a short period of time has created heightened danger for recreation on the Peaks.

"Now is a bad time to be in avalanche terrain, particularly on slopes between 35 and 45 degrees," says Blair Foust with KPAC. "So if people did want to go cross country skiing or poke around in their snowshoes in the backcountry, you want to stay on very low-grade slopes."

Foust says a backcountry skier triggered an avalanche last week, but was uninjured.

The ski patrol at Arizona Snowbowl does avalanche mitigation work near the resort. But areas outside the ski area boundary are unmaintained.