Monday, December 29, 2008

Some Stable Snow In Southern Colorado!!!

Despite the reports on NPR, the snow is starting to stabilize - kind of. Now, the CAIC is still listing our snow pack in the "considerably dangerous" zone, and I won't argue with them. We dug two pits yesterday on Southeast faces and with the mild weather, the snow was super consolidated. What's more, the skiing was KILLER! Yesterday was some of the best turns I've had all year - ahhh, buttery rich POW POW!

There is a nasty layer at the very bottom 4 inches, so that's something to watch out for. I'm thinking the danger is in the, sometimes, false positives that you get from snowpack tests. The CAIC, says it best.
The most likely place to find one of these problematic layers is on slopes that face NW-N-SE. We have also had several reports of "false-stable" conditions. This means that you might get high snowpit test scores, or not see the usual signs of instability (such as cracking or collapsing) before triggering an avalanche. In addition to conservative decision making you can look for buried ice crusts that have a loose snow layer next to them. You might also try snowpit tests that address fracture propagation, such as the ECT and PST, to evaluate the stability on individual slopes.
What's really wild is the number of deaths this year...
The snowpack in Colorado this winter may not be worse than a typical year, but it is as bad or worse than we have seen in the last several years. The fall weather created some serious structural weakness within our snowpack, and they could plague us throughout the rest of the winter and into spring. In Colorado, between 5 and 6 people die in avalanches each winter. As of today 4 people have died in Colorado this winter, and it is not even January.
As for me, I'm going skiing, but with a cautious eye on this snowpack.

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