Multiple avalanches close highways, ski areas in Colorado high country

Interstate 70 about two miles west of the Vail Pass summit around 9 a.m. Thursday. Colorado Department of Transportation

Avalanches are causing more problems in Colorado’s mountains.

The Colorado Avalanche Information Center has issued a rare five out of five danger level on the avalanche danger scale for the Vail and Summit County, Sawatch, Gunnison and Aspen zones.

It is the first time that four backcountry zones have gone into the extreme danger zone since the ten-zone forecast format began.

The center recommends that people avoid the backcountry.

Firefighters say an avalanche at around 5 a.m. Thursday near Copper Mountain ruptured a natural gas pipeline. Nearby highways, including a stretch of Interstate 70, were shut down as a precaution as crews work to shut off the gas.

>> Tap here for a map of current highway closures, courtesy of CDOT.

Meanwhile, a tow truck was caught in an avalanche just after midnight on I-70 at Vail Pass. The Colorado State Patrol said he was doing OK.

Arapahoe Basin ski resort did not open Thursday and will not open Friday morning due to “extreme avalanche concerns.”

“While it is our intention to open sometime during the day Friday, we will have to see how the avalanche mitigation work goes,” the COO wrote in a blog post. There is substantial work planned for the morning.  It absolutely pains me to say this but, PLEASE stay away until we can get this situation resolved.”

The slides come just days after an avalanche covered the highway between Frisco and Copper Mountain. On Tuesday, CDOT shut down I-70 for hours for planned avalanche mitigation work.

The Associated Press and KDVR contributed to this report. 

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