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Early snow brings avalanches

Dec 12, 2012 - The Associated Press

They are small so far, with little cause for alarm.

CHEYENNE -- Big, new snow is already avalanching in the mountains around Jackson Hole, but that's not necessarily setting a dangerous pattern for snow slides in that area this winter.

As of Monday, just short of 5 feet of powder had accumulated at the famous Rendezvous Bowl at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, which advertises the West's best snow right now.

"We had a great booking weekend. People are hearing about the snow and making plans to get here," resort spokeswoman Anna Cole said Tuesday.

Average snow depth for the bowl this time of year is 43 inches.

Heavy snow began falling around the beginning of this month and continued through Monday, when the mountains got another 10 inches. Down in the valley, Jackson got enough snow Monday to finally wear a frosty look befitting the holiday season.

Snow also has been piling up in the Wyoming Range and Yellowstone National Park which, weather permitting, is scheduled to open to snowmobiles this weekend.

Meanwhile, skiers have loosed dozens of mostly minor slides in the Teton Range.

Nobody has been hurt, although the Bridger-Teton Avalanche Center got a report of one skier getting caught in an avalanche south of Teton Pass on Sunday. The skier rode out the avalanche by deploying an emergency air bag collar, said avalanche center forecaster Bob Comey.

"It's kind of good and bad. Most avalanches occur during and immediately after a storm. We're getting that," he said. "But a lot of times, persistent problems are associated with a shallow snowpack."

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