I’ve been away from the region since mid-November and felt a need to get out into our local snow and see for myself what we have developing in our early season snowpack. Plus, I needed to get a bunch of fresh Idaho mountain air into my lungs; does a body good, you know!

I headed into the north side of Stouts Mt, off the Pine Creek Pass road, by way of Fleming and then Gopher Canyons.

There is snow on the ground starting at the highway but it is shallow and the most southerly facing slopes are mostly bare up to about 6500′. But , I was able to skin right from Hwy 31.

The drainage I skinned to approach the north side of Stouts has aspects ranging from North through East to South facing and so gave me a good sample of the current snowpack in this area. I traversed terrain from about 5800′ feet at the highway to 7600′ on one of Stouts’ northeast trending ridges.
The snow varies in depth form a few inches on lower, south facing slopes to 18-20″ on norherly aspects but is surprisingly consistent in character; a layer of surface hoar forming on top with the cold, clear nights, then 1″ or 2″ of “new” snow from last weekend over a “crust” from warming last week (the crust is more pronounced on more southerly aspects but is still noticeable on northerly aspects). Under the crust, on all aspects I inspected, is a layer of faceted, “sugar” snow all the way to the ground.

At present, in this area, we don’t have a slab to worry about (unless you are higher and on the lee of a windy ridge) and the facets, if deep enough, are actually fun to ski BUT when the snow does start to pile up, starting a week to 10 days from now, we will need to remember what is under it and tread carefully!!


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