- Associated Press - Thursday, December 25, 2014

DENVER (AP) - Colorado’s Front Range waited for a white Christmas, while mountain areas braced for another foot or more of fresh powder and the possible threat of avalanches.

A snowstorm moving in Thursday evening along the central Rockies was expected to leave a hefty accumulation by Friday morning.

The high country could see up to 16 inches of snow; the Denver area was expected to get 8 to 12 inches, depending on elevation; and lower elevations and the Eastern Plains could see 4 to 7 inches.

The Colorado Department of Transportation alerted employees that they may have to cut Christmas celebrations short to help clear highways.

Meanwhile, mountain resorts were rejoicing at the fresh powder that came during the busy tourist time. But officials reminded backcountry skiers and hikers to be aware of avalanche danger.

In Summit County, 2½ feet of fresh snow has been reported this week, with more on the way.

Officials with the Colorado Avalanche Information Center cautioned that there is significant potential for human-caused slides, especially on steeper slopes and in wind-loaded terrain.

The center put its statewide avalanche threat level at considerable, the Summit Daily News reported (http://bit.ly/1rkoOUd ).

Center forecaster Spencer Logan reminded snow sports enthusiasts not to ignore warning signs.

“Days like today are always tricky,” he said Wednesday. “There’s blue sky and new snow but pretty touchy avalanche conditions.”

Brian Lazar, deputy director of the center, echoed the sentiment.

“I would give the snowpack several more days before I started to push into steeper and more consequential terrain,” he said.

Officials suggested skiers and boarders stick to slopes of less than 30 degrees and cautioned against traveling near steeper terrain because of the possibility of releasing a slide.

Wind-loaded north-, east- and south-facing slopes are of particular concern because of recent snowfall, as well as the weak layers in the snowpack.

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