More than 4 feet of new snow helps boost Colorado snowpack, especially in southwest corner

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DENVER — More than 4 feet of new snow in the mountains has helped boost Colorado's snowpack, especially in the state's southwestern corner.

The snowpack in the San Miguel, Dolores, Animas and San Juan Basin was 75 percent of average Tuesday, up from about 55 percent two weeks ago. Statewide, the snowpack was 91 percent of average, up from 78 percent in mid-February.

The latest storm, which moved into Colorado on Friday, favored the southwestern mountains.

According to a compilation of preliminary snow reports from the National Weather Service, Schofield Pass in Gunnison County received 4.5 feet of snow between Friday and Tuesday morning, while 4.3 feet was reported at Wolf Creek Ski Area. By contrast, 14 inches was reported at Vail Mountain and Rabbit Ears Pass.

Wolf Creek Pass in the eastern San Juan Mountains usually does get heavy snow from storms that move in from the Four Corners region because it's part of the first big mountain range that storms will hit as they move into Colorado, said Randy Gray, a weather service forecaster in Pueblo.

An estimated 3 feet of snow fell on Red Mountain Pass as of Tuesday morning. The pass remained closed after an avalanche there Sunday night left a debris pile 6 feet deep and 200 feet long on U.S. Highway 550 south of Ouray, The Durango Herald reported (http://bit.ly/1zSvXtE ).

The new snow has raised the avalanche danger across the high country.

The Colorado Avalanche Information Center rated the risk as high — the fourth most severe in its five-category rating system — in the far western part of the state, including the San Juans and the Aspen area, and considerable in the Front Range mountains and in Summit County.

Three people have been killed in avalanches in the state this winter. The most recent death happened Feb. 23 when a longtime backcountry skier was killed on Aspen Mountain outside the boundaries of the ski area.

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