Slow and steady wins the race. Without a doubt this season has been a very slow start. October got our hopes up with two early storms worth noting. November on the other hand was perhaps one of the driest November's on record. This past weekend kicked off our avalanche education for the season with our Annual Ogden Industry professionals’ course hosted at Powder Mountain. Thanks to last Thursday’s storm we were able to find pockets of skiable snow in the Northerly aspects between 8600' and 9000'. Conditions were tricky, each tour started off on dirt, and took you over heinous wind-scoured ridges in order to find small pockets of deposition snow between wind slabs near the ridges, and the snow sharks near 8600'. Between the wind slabs and the Persistent weak layer of 2mm Facets (See photo) lurking about 20” down in the snowpack (after last night’s storm snow), skiing on slopes greater than 30 degrees that are found to have this persistent weak layer are not an option. (See Pit Profile from 20211212)
As I write this blog a wet storm from the South is pushing into the area. Warmer temperatures are producing copious amounts of wet snow (1.75” of snow water) at a rate of more than an inch an hour at Powder Mountain. This wet heavy snow has the potential to really help our persistent weak layer heal if we can be patient enough to let it work.
Stay out of avalanche terrain for a few days! Remember, it has to get worse before it can get better. That little bit of old storm snow primarily found in those high sheltered Northerly aspects has to have time to heal. This heavy wet snow will first make that persistent weak layer become very reactive. We will see avalanche danger spike. On the good side, once this storm snow has had time to settle for a few days we will start to see the healing effect of moisture, consolidation, and insulation begin changing the angular facet snow crystals in that weak layer into nice rounded shapes that bond well together. This process is called metamorphosis. From here all we can hope for is steady back to back storms that drop inches at a time. Thursday's forecasted storm will do just that. This is the perfect recipe for a right-side up snowpack for the season.
Now that we have been through the slow, let's hope for the steady!
Daniel Turner -