Report: Western Big Hole Mountains

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On the Brow in the Big Slot with Kelly Canyon Ski Resort behind

After a long dry spell the western Big Holes were blessed with a significant load of new snow at the first of this week. This new snow fell on stout crusts of icy melt/freeze forms and quickly bonded to that layer. This storm lacked any significant winds in the Kelly Mountain area and the distribution of snow accumulation ranged from about 22″ at 5,800′ to approximately 26″ at 6,600′. Low clouds and fog along with light winds have kept the south aspects in excellent condition and warming temperatures throughout the week have settled the snow as noted by settlement cones around brush and the Kelly Canyon Ski Patrol recorded 8″ of settlement by Wednesday.

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Snow profiling on the West Rim of Kelly Mountain

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Snow pit profile: East aspect @ 6,400′ – Kelly Mountain

On Wednesday, Scott and I toured the West Rim, skied some powder, and collected snowpack data. We dug two separate pits at different elevations and conducted a number of stability tests. In summary, we found a snowpack that suggests structural concern with about 30cm’s of facets as a basal layer. This layer was collapsing with hard force in our stability tests, but the results were Q1. We did not experience any collapsing or shooting cracks during our afternoon tour on east facing terrain. A secondary (future) concern may be the melt/freeze layer at 45cms. If we get warm temps and some free water lubricating the interface between the melt/freeze layer and the slab resting on top of the melt/freeze layer – this could provide an excellent bed surface and increase the avalanche potential during warmer parts of the day. Just a thought.

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Big Easy Exit

Scott and I skied two different lines down into Moose while two snowboarders we met on the way up skied a third line north of us.

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Scott in Jihad

I’ve been able to ski some of the south-facing terrain in an area known to snowshoer’s as the Big Slot. This terrain can be quite enjoyable in good conditions and very worth pursuing with its short approach and scenic view of Kelly Canyon Ski Resort. The terrain is a bit more mellow than the West Rim and provides some wide open terrain with 20 to 30 degree slopes; perfect for doing a lot of laps without concern.

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Tracks down the Brow in the Big Slot

    There is a lot to be said about just getting out and skiing powder line after powder line and not feeling any need to “go big”! To be able to catch Kelly Canyon after such a great storm has been very rewarding… and a reward that has lasted all week! Things will change quickly as soon as the sun brightens up the grey  days we’ve experienced all week. Sun lit aspects will crust over and temps will climb to near or above freezing and bring back the more typical rodeo skiing the Kelly Canyon area is use to seeing!

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