All I want for Christmas… is snow!
If you haven't heard by now, listen up, the Ogden mountains have a weak snowpack. A weak snowpack today means a dangerous snowpack with our next storm cycle. How did we get here? What do we do about it?
It started in early November as the snow started to pile up. Then, we moved into a cold high pressure system that started to weaken the existing snow through the process of faceting. (Click here to learn more about faceting.) Across the west, avalanche centers were warning of the danger to come with the next storm cycle that would overload the weak layers within our snowpack.
Facets look like this...
Leading up to this last storm cycle, our snowpack was pretty benign, as we did not have a slab on top of these weak layers. See the following profiles for reference.
Last week’s storm produced about 1.1 inches of water and anywhere from 8-11 inches of snow. We now had the slab, and the snow started talking. The reports of red flags started to come in: Large rolling collapses that sounded like thunder as they spread for long distances, slopes with shooting cracks, and test slopes shattering like a pane of glass. One large, well-connected avalanche in Bailey’s was also reported (see photos).
There was even a report of someone caught in a separate small slide on Cutler ridge near Bailey’s that was, fortunately, able to ski off only losing a pole. The red flags were piling up for those keeping track.
Here are a few more profiles of what the pack looked like after the new snow:
Mid week, we got about 5inches of low density powder and then came the winds… The past few days, the wind has damaged the snow's surface on ridgelines and wind-swept areas.
As we move into the next storm cycle, we could receive up to another inch of water by December 30. It is important that we keep in mind these previous red flags and what effect a fresh load could have. We are all powder-starved, itching to get out. With the huge influx of new backcountry users, be mindful of those in connected terrain, and step out with caution. I suspect the snow will be talking with this next storm, be prepared to listen by looking for red flags:
Poor Snowpack Structure (which we already have)
As always, pray for snow.