By Wednesday, Colorado may see the most dangerous avalanche conditions of the season so far, according to the Colorado Avalanche Information Center.
A winter storm is moving into the state on Monday and will drop a foot or more in the mountains, especially west of the Continental Divide, by the time it moves out later this week.
The level of avalanche danger will increase as the storms progresses this week. An avalanche watch is in effect as of Monday at 4:15 p.m. for the Aspen and Gunnison zones. Other zones will likely fall under a watch on Tuesday, CAIC said.
As of Monday morning and early afternoon, thick clouds were spreading across the Western Slope and will increase across the whole state throughout the day. A few places in northwest Colorado, the Park Range, Flat Tops, Grand Mesa and West Elk Mountains will see accumulating snow before sunset Monday, but that changes by the late evening hours, when a cold front moves in, according to CAIC.
This front will bring heavy snow to most areas west of the Continental Divide before tapering off Tuesday, just in time for another front to move in. This follow-up system will bring heavy snowfall to the San Juan Mountains and Elk Mountains through Wednesday.
Snowfall will lessen toward the end of the week, but the storm won't fully clear out until the weekend, CAIC said.
The southwest flow will add new snow and drift snow on north and east-facing slopes, according to CAIC.
While human-triggered avalanches are likely, CAIC said it also expects to see natural avalanche activity.
Leading up to this storm, CAIC has taken reports of 41 human-triggered avalanches over the past seven days.
Backcountry travelers should avoid firm, wind-drifted areas of snow where slides can break wider than expected, CAIC said.