what does it mean to you?

New snow + wind + terrain =

Heather and I spent the afternoon ski touring on the Western Rim of Moose at Kelly Canyon. Recent snow, about 20cm new since Monday night, and strong winds transported a lot of snow across the western end of Kelly Mountain, leaving a large wind slab at the top of the Jihad run. An easy ski cut mitigated the hazard. The crown measured 60cm (about 24″) and pulled out most of the new skiable slope at the start of the run.

In perfect form, Heather slashes her way down Jihad

After a quick plunge down Jihad we skinned back up to the western rim, landing at the top of the big easy rib between Jihad and the Baugher Special.

click on the image to see it better

The recent snow is heavy and rests on top of lighter density snow which is often referred to as an “upside down” snowpack. This can create potentially dangerous surface instabilities, which showed itself near the bottom of the Big Easy. A ski turn started a point release sluff as i skied the 40 degree slope; picking up a fair amount of surface snow as it traveled down hill, chasing after me. This one may not have been big enough to completely bury me but i can imagine hitting those trees could have caused some bodily harm!

More good snow and terrain from the Western Rim of Moose Drainage.

Our test pit showed 120cm of settled snow at 6,400′ on an Easterly aspect. The snowpack includes several buried persistent layers (mainly ice layers and melt/freeze crusts) with the most reactive layer (thin ice layer on top of melt/freeze layer) in our stability tests at approx 50cm in depth. Compression Test scores recorded as CT 11, Q1 @ 50cm (x 2) slope angle 35*. There is definitely a slab out there.

So, what does this mean to you? I know what it means to me. Surface instabilities are very sensitive to human triggers right now on certain aspects of Kelly Mountain AND there is reason to be concerned about deeper instabilities within the snowpack in that area. Don’t take our easily accessible low elevation terrain in the Western Big Hole Mtns for granted. Instabilities are lurking, and the possibility of harmful snow sluffs and avalanches are a real possibility.

-Dean Lords

5 responses to “what does it mean to you?

  1. >Wow, we were just a few miles east, as the crow flies, and 1-2000' feet higher and found stable soft snow on NE aspects. What a difference!

  2. >Eric -We just skied three seperate lines all on the same aspect from the west rim of Moose. Things change quickly on Kelly Mtn, so it's always worth poking around in the snow to see what you're skiing on. A few 40* slopes with terrain traps (tree stands and thick brush)on the west end of KM.

  3. >Good Info Dean, it's been a wild windy winter, very unpredictable from aspect to aspect and even pocket to pocket. As the season grows long, I tend to get more and more complacent on pit digging, so does most of the crew I ski with. Part of the blame for me at least, lies in the notion that by skiing the same areas all winter, I intimately know what weaknesses lurk beneath the surface. Here, (southern Pio’s) wind has been the big game changer but last week a buddy and I got a big surprise on an upside down snow pack. We could actually hear the snow settle while making turns. Luckily we were on a 25 degree slope but we’d come very close to dropping into a much steeper bowl in the same neighborhood. I’d like to say it was internal radar or that little “voice” that moved us past the bowl. What ever it was, I damn sure didn’t plan on digging a pit. “We can learn from experience if we are ready to adapt that experience to changed conditions.” (un known)

  4. >I've got a friend who could probably build you some home-made hand charges for your KC avalanche control work. Just kidding, of course.

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