Snow Observations

Valdez Snow Observations

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301 thoughts on “Snow Observations

  1. Thur. Dec. 18: Moonlight Basin
    Mostly clear and sunny south of the pass, while a low cloud layer (only a few hundred feet thick around noon) dominated the gap and the valley inland. The upper sunny peaks were visible at moments to see a few natural slabs avalanches off the NE ridge of Catchters Mitt and the extensive flagging (blowing snow) off all peaks and ridgetops from the strong NE winds. This led to a decision for a tour where it was more wind-protected despite some alders to navigate.

    -Ski pen 10-30cm (really nice in the wind protected pockets)
    -Calm down low with winds picking up with elevation gain toward the ridge.
    – Sensitive wind slabs were mixed into the slope as one became higher and more exposed. A very small, skier triggered slab broke off of a steeper rollover into the main drainage up high.
    -Extensive transport of snow where wind exposed: my pit developed a cornice quickly.
    – Tests continue to demonstrate that the mid-pack crusts with facets above (that we have seen for awhile) still are able to propagate resistant planar slabs, yet seem to slowly be strengthening with time (ECTP 21, 22).

  2. Monday Dec 15:
    Tour up to Little Girls 11-4pm.
    -Broken to overcast sky with variable flat light/visibility.
    -Light precipitation off and on. Calm to Moderate winds up higher.
    -Heavy new snow with ski penetration up to 30cm, getting firmer higher on the exposed ridge.
    -Significant whumphing down lower in vegetated area, none above.
    -Dug @ about 3400ft on north aspect: CT8 progressive collapse on buried light snow about 20cm down; CT24 Q3 break in between uppermost 2 crusts (60cm down in facets) with a step through the lower crust; CT25 below crust in facets 70 down. ECTX
    -Flat light off and on, but of course realy flat on descent: vertigo style conditions.
    -While picking way through terrain, a rollover was steeper than expected and a soft slab pulled out on skier: able to ski off of a 60ft wide slab that ran about 100ft (1-3ft crown) on the upper firm melt crust.
    -Didn’t see 2nd event in action, but a sympathetic D2 avalanche released on a slightly larger feature just to the lookers left (see photo).
    -Both failed in steep, unsupported, rocky, wind loaded, south facing terrain similar to other recent events.

  3. Sunday Dec 14:
    Odyssey ridge excursion in horribly flat light, but at least with variable, yet constant precipitation! Moderate wind gusts dropping to light from the ENE as the afternoon passed by. Above freezing temperatures left denser new snow accumulations (up to 30cm ski pen), skin glopping and roller balls.

  4. Saturday Dec 13:
    Toured up Loveland Ridge above DOT. Broken sky, flat light, scattered precipitation and light to moderate winds from the SE. The change of winds, previously from the NE, has led to soft snow deposition on more northerly aspects. Ski penetration up to 15 cm. New snow was light, unconsolidated and nonreactive. Tests above 3000 ft continue to show the main weaknesses in the snowpack to be just below the mid-pack crusts within sugar snow, while a weak layer is still appearing between windslabs in isolated terrain loaded from previous NE winds (See photo below for failure on this layer, CT8, while the off angle demonstrates the change in wind loading in this protected pocket).

    Another party explored in the lower vegetated terrain at the mouth of Nick’s Happy Valley and reported extensive whumphing settlement, yet good turns.


  5. SAT 12/13. Party of 2, skied lookers right shoulder of Nicks, staying within treeline for visibility reasons and running lower angles. Lots of whoomping. Even had more whoomping on the skin track during our second lap. No visual clues regarding naturals or skier triggered, but no faith in anything higher angle. Snow was great, but quick hand pits showed failure at crust/faceted layer approx 60 cm down.

  6. Some lower elevation (about 2300′) snow tests in a wind protected area from Dec 12 demonstrated a sensitivity exists in the upper snowpack (15cm down). A compression failure occurred at CTE 4 which had a rough interface between soft windslabs. Had the slabs above and below been more firm, this collapse on preserved precipitation crystals may have been more planar and resembled some easy propagation results from previous tests. Consider this weakness when traveling below steep, loaded and protected terrain features, especially if they seem unsupported.

    The mid-pack sugar snow weaknesses above and below the mid Nov ice crust continue to be moderately sensitive (CT12). Lower elevation failures are still happening above the crust, while higher elevations (above 2800′) have failed just below. Recent results have shown no propagation propensity (ECTX).

  7. Tour Thur, Dec 11:

    One summit push to the top of Catcher’s Mitt and another lap to just below the “Notch” apron. Initially, while gaining the first main rib from the flats, remote triggered, from 40ft away, a D2 windslab slide just below Dec 10th’s event location (just under 3000′). This failed on the new-old snow interface and did so after two people had crossed the track already (see photo below). Dec 10th’s slide too, seemed remote triggered.


    Clear sky to few clouds above, valley outflow clouds settled in at about 3400′. Moderate winds from NE. Ski penetration was 15cm down low decreasing to 4 near the summit. Snow depth in basins seemed to vary from 80cm to 130cm. A very thin rime crust was found at all elevations and aspects with growing surface hoar on top.

    Several hand pits were strong and failing at the deep facets Q3. A full depth, south facing profile of 86 cm at 3900′ had two Q3 Break failures at CT 12 and 15 in the facets just below the firm ice crusts (midpack and lower down). One uneventful ECTX with a rock partially behind….below critical layer. Did not find remote trigger weakness below windslab.

  8. December 7, 2014 Nick’s Happy Valley MP 30
    -4.5C air temp, obscured sky, snowing lightly, light NNE wind
    Whumphs and cracking felt and seen up to 3500′. 18-25cm storm snow. Below about 2800′ the storm snow was sliding right off the old crust on steep test slopes. At about 3500′ we dug on a WNW facing lateral moraine, 31 degrees. CT10-11 RP/Q2 down 42cm in facets between Nov.19 crust and an old windslab. ECTP11 RP/Q2 on the same layer. ECTP12 SC/BRK down 50cm under Nov.19 brittle crust in facets.

  9. Toured up and over Little Odyssey and down the chute NW above the lake. Pleasurably calm with overcast skies and flat light. No notable obs on the climb, but a variety of surface conditions exist as things fill in. Dug on a W-NW flank of the chute @ about 3700′ before it rolled over for the main descent. “See attached profile.”

    Descent was firm to soft with no notable obs. Upon exiting the chute below the dogleg and above the lake at 2900′, remotely triggered a D1.5 hard-soft slab on adjacent, 38-42 degree, unsupported aspect (scoured to crust below) that ran 30-40 ft and 100 ft wide. “See photo” with crown and trigger point marked. One point of the crown was investigated and the “profile is included” (only covers the crown and bed surface). Other significant settling whoomp noticed upon traversing out….similar elevation and aspect, but lower angle with supportive slab below.




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