The last storm cycle ended January 1st. It featured strong SE winds, and 1-2.5" of SWE. It rained up to about 4000ft for a few hours at the end of the storm. We've been in deep freeze with arctic outflow (NW winds) ever since. We did have a freezing-rain event up to 3500ft in the Lutak zone last weekend, which added an icy layer at the snow surface.
Problem #1: Wind Slab:
Location: Specific slopes in the alpine above 2,000ft, where north/NW winds the last two weeks caused wind loading on lee aspects beneath ridgelines and terrain features. Recent reports found isolated areas of wind slab (3-8" thick) that are poorly bonded and easy to trigger. Be sure to dig around in high-alpine areas to assess for yourself how well-bonded the upper snowpack is. Variability will be high, so evaluate each slope carefully. Hand pits and slopes tests will be helpful in mapping out this potential danger. In large or steep terrain, slabs as thin a few inches can sweep you into dangerous situations.
January 8th Snow pit from the Lutak zone, at 2700ft, N aspect. Notice fresh wind slabs in top 15cm (easy triggering), and hard triggering down 35cm.
Cold north winds and clear weather will start to give way to a pattern change beginning Saturday-Sunday, when light snow will move in and temperatures will begin to slowly warm up. General storminess should continue thereafter.
( *star means meteorological estimate )
If you get out riding, please send in an observation!
Do a rescue practice with your partners. Always carry a beacon, shovel, and probe, and KNOW HOW TO USE THEM.
Practice good risk management, which means only expose one person at a time to slopes 30 degrees and steeper, make group communication and unanimous decision making a priority, and choose your terrain wisely: eliminating unnecessary exposure and planning out your safe zones and escape routes.
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