Tuesday, December 22, 2009

getting better

now we have some quality skiing.  really fun day, as the snow settled and allowed the skier to stay on top.  it was very creamy, silky.  a bit heavier down lower on the hill, but still quite turnable and managable.  i did not make it long enough thru the day to see if patrol opened hellroaring basin, but man, did it look GOOD!

selfishly,  i am hoping they do not open it today, and instead early wednesday am.  i will be there.  apparently only to the traverse,but that is the best stuff anyway. 

i think that as the colder air comes in, we will not see an ice layer form on snow from 5-6000 feet.  instead it should start to feel a bit lighter, as wet, rounded snow bonds break down a bit. 

it was starting to feel a bit more crowded today.  more locals, but it also seemed like some visitors are starting to hit the slopes.  should be relatively mellow thru xmas morning, but by friday afternoon thru jan 3, i expect pretty heavy crowds. 

with that said, i am hoping the backcountry solidifies so we can get out in it a bit more safely thru this holiday season, and for those of us who like to avoid crowds, we can.  it almost seems like all this new snow has solidified into a pretty solid base.  that does not mean there are incredibly bad layers down lower in the snowpack, they just might not be as likely to collaspe and run as before. i hope toget out and about and check it out in the next few days. 


  1. Chris - Since this is the premier spot for local back country skiing discussions, I would like to present the question to our fellow mountain folks as to just what folks would like from GCAC. It appears that GCAC is looking for some direction and drive. I know they are looking for some new board members. I would like to hear comments regarding the avalanche forcasting (Once a week??? Through a horrid avalanche cycle??? Hummmm.) Public outreach and community needs. Are the public classess working? Would the public like to see some Nordic Ski Patrol Presence patrolling the outer reaches of the area? You can e-mail me direct if you would like to look at it in more detail. I think some comments on these areas would be great and you have the book open on comments. Good job on the blog, a little less about parking and congenstion though... It is a ski area remember. ~ Stay safe out there.. ~ Greg Fortin

  2. Hellroaring Avalanche Incident?

    Hearing stories of a skier triggered avalanche on Hellroaring yesterday, 12/22- Apparently skier took a serious ride, lost both skis and sustained minor injuries...

    I also heard this person was skiing alone??? IS THAT INFORMATION CORRECT?? In these conditions, really not a good idea... Please pass the word!

    Now if you disagree and decide to tour alone- please wear a transceiver so you are easier to find if you get caught and buried in a slide... NO NEED to have a bunch of rescuers (friends)out there risking their lives, freez'n their butts off trying to probe your frozen body...

    Anyway, if info regarding this incident is correct, it helps clarify what we already know... WE STILL HAVE a poor quality basal snowpack!... It is just covered by a slab now- if it is avalanche prone and looks like great skiing- it has a good potential of avalanching... If you decide to ski it be as prepared as possible for triggering an avalanche and/or conducting self rescue.

    Remember, you are skiing on a shit ton of facets/ well established crust- PERSISTANT WEAK LAYER(s) AND the slab you are skiing on has the potential to not be thick enough to support your weight without fracturing...

    Ok, I am preaching too much.. I'm sorry but many of you are my friends and I want to share what I know with you- may sound silly, but that is why I ramble on.

    With that said, I want to close with this...

    If you are headed out to tour in the back/side country- I believe there are three things you really need to be evaluating right now each time you head out or commit to a line...

    1 Probability:
    Based on what you know/have experienced thus far this season and in your avalanche education what is the potential of you/your group triggering/getting caught in an avalanche?

    2. EXPOSURE: Given what you know about the PROBABILITY, what kind of EXPOSURE are you willing to commit yourself and/or party to- not only for skiing but post release self rescue?

    3. CONCEQUENCES: If you and/or your party do trigger an avalanche and get caught, what will potentially happen to you, your group, and/or OTHER non-related bc parties where you have EXPOSED yourself(ves)?

    If you/ your party can nail down answers to these three questions before you commit yourself(s) to a tour/ line- I believe you have determined the level of RISK you are willing to take... Call it the "Avalanche Risk" triangle- with RISK being in the center of the triangle- kinda like the "Avalanche Triangle" but soley based on: "Conditions based decision making."

    That's it for now... Merry Christmas you guys!

    Ted Steiner

  3. Greg, I don't know what GCAC actually does so I can't give you any input there.

    As far as the forecast goes, however, I can give some input. Simply put, technology. Use it. Tony was out at the Hellroaring slide, why isn't there a video of the slide path and his analysis of it on the website. How about some video of Tony and Stan doing their tests, explaining what they are finding and how they are incorporating those findings into their forecast. What are they doing anyway; what tests, what aspects and elevations. How about an avy Rose.
    Seems to me the advisory should be geared for the general backcountry user. Snow water equivalent, come on, what does that tell the general public. I'm sure you've checked out other National Forest avy sites, it's no secret what good forecasters are doing.
    I hear alot of suggestions for more than one or two forecasts a week. In my opinion, unless they are going to improve things there is no need for that. They could save alot of time and money by just staying with the status quo. "This is the Flathead National Avalanche forcast for the 09-10 season, Moderate to Considerable between 5500' and 7500'. Thanks, see ya next year!"
    Not to be a d@#k, but maybe someone should set Stan's homepage to the Gallatin National Forest avy site.
    But then again, thats just my opinion, I could be wrong.

  4. Kevin - I fully agree with you regarding the avy reports. When I was on the GCAC Board it was discussed over and over to have critical data included in the reports including elevation, aspect, temp etc. Video or photos would be great, pit profile. This is critical information for proper decision making prior to leaving the house. I think this venue is a perfect spot to review and look at the available forcasting and in a positive way, look for the changes that are needed to make the forcast a better tool for folks to review. This forcast is important for people to make educated decisions prior to going out. That being said, getting information once a week durring an elevated state of instability is a recipe for disaster. There are a lot of new folks in town for the winter and visitors that are not even thinking avalanche, hell it is even catching locals off guard. It is our obligation to be responsible and be educated regarding our own activities. We don't want to be the ones making poor decisions that will endanger others through our own carelessness. Let's keep this discussion going. Thanks ~ Greg Fortin