Sunday, January 31, 2010

a little bit

well, it was not a powder day, but a few inches helped.  it was still stiff and scratchy underneath, but the new snow made it more peaceful and fun.  so, hopefully it will snow some more inches overnight.  but if not, and big dave raves about the pow, well, now you know what to expect.  but with another 3-5 overnight, it should be really good. keep the fingers crossed.

some info and fundraiser

The Glacier Country Avalanche Center (GCAC) is pleased to bring avalanche survivor and paralympic athlete Sam Kavanagh and a screening of the film “A Dozen More Turns”

The film and presentation will start at 7:00 PM on Friday, February 5th at the Glacier Discovery Square , 540 Nucleus Avenue in Columbia Falls . Tickets are $5 at the door and drinks will be available for a suggested donation. We encourage everyone to come out and support avalanche education and safety with this powerful presentation and film.

For more information on this event or Glacier Country Avalanche Center , go to or call (406) 387-5737.

the drinks are beer and wine.  good start for the friday of winter carnival.

thinking of winter carnival. if looking for other entertainment, head on over to the ice arena for the annual men's A hockey tourny.  it is always fast, fun and entertaining.  and again, beer.

 just a quick note that sfc hoar is evident all the way to the tops of the summits. sfc hoar growth needs just a bit of wind near the sfc for moisture deposition to be refreshed. Too much wind obviously blows it all away. Most likely, the next storm that rolls in with have enough wind to destroy the sfc. hoard at exposed locations before and during snowfall, but well protected locales such as below treeline may see this layer persist. We'll see....

dry spell continues

not really too much to add in right now.  as we continue in a long dry spell.  the ski hill got two new last night, but really needs much more.  it is holding up okay, but friday's sun and warm really did not help, except for friday afternoon.  there might be some snow this week, but really not much is expected. 

the nordic skiing is on the other hand, fantastic.  although it took a hit with friday's sun as well.  but it is fast and furious. 

unfortunately, my trip to ovando did not result in any new terrain found.  ended up a solo trip.  (except carlos for a day, but that was more to help with a water heater than to ski) .  maybe this blog sets me on an island, or perhaps i was already there.  but i will say, there is huge potential there, and tons of cross country options for such solo trips. 

let's see what this weeks adventure to the Downing Mtn. Lodge, out of hamilton has to offer. 

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Advantages of a long dry spell

So it hasn't dumped in a while. That's painfully obvious on the ski hill, but thank goodness we started this snowless hell with some soft snow where it counts. Can you imagine if a rain crust had preceded the last couple of weeks? There are good sides to everything. 1) Stability is getting good. 2) We're less likely to get stuck in a rut skiing pow at the resort every day 3) Getting around in the mountains is quick and efficient. 4) Bigger lines are ripe for the picking. 5) Lots of cool animal tracks to check out.

Our group of three also spent Saturday in the Middle Fork and yes, the skiing rocked. Most lines facing NW through East were buttery pow once you got off the wind hammered ridges. 7500 to 5500 ft had a good coating on whatever firmer snow lurked beneath. Bits of pow held out to maybe 5000 ft but after that you're cruising the crust. That's Jess dropping off Nyack ridge up above.

The old facet layers are still there, but we found they only reacted with substantial force. The upper slab has consolidated to the point where the obvious old facets are about 60 and 50 cm down, respectively. Obviously this can vary, it's just what we saw. The only recent avy activity appeared to be some natural cornice releases. We dropped a moderate sized one and saw only sluffing.

Anyway, lots of good skiing out there, but watch out when it starts dumping again. The top few cm in the Middle Fork is pretty sugary which is fun for now but sure to be touchy with a big dump. The same goes for Canyon Creek, which I'm sure we all know has also been skiing pretty sweetly. By the way, I agree with Chris' comment that the Middle Fork is hardly a secret and letting people know where the good skiing is isn't gonna get the Great Bear get all tracked up and bumped out. If someone has it in them to slog through all the brush and whatever to go shred some powder, good for them. It's too big out there to worry about it.
Have fun.

been a while

been nearly a week, which shows i have not been on the hill on in the backcountry enough.  i have at least been out on the track at stillwater a bunch. man is it fast. 
but i did get on the hill on friday.  high winds made for uncomfortable lift rides, but the skiing was okay.  not great, of course. it has not snowed in two weeks.  and with the wind, some slopes were stiffening up a bit more. but there was good snow to be found.   try north facing slopes, and areas that may have had some snow blown into them. 
i also got in a big day yesterday, up in the middle fork.  went with a good group of four, the other three having spent considerable time in the bc over the past week.  so i went with their gut feelings and overall sense of snowpack.  again, some aspects were considerably better than others. but the northeast aspects were fantastic.  really solid snowpack (avoiding rollovers and windloads), we skied multiple excellent runs.  to give some disclosure but not all, we were a bit before essex, and beyond, of fuck it.  we skied mt. adams.  there is so much terrain there.  that is it. there is so much terrain, period. 

on our first ascent up the mountain, we stopped below the summit.  we were in a cloud and could not see above us,and had reached tree line, and no longer felt comfortable.  so we de-skinned and began to descend.  just as i was about to take off, kevin and i looked above us,and there it was, the mountain top, now out of the clouds.  but within a minute, it was socked in again., so we skied while the getting was good. and it was good. GREAT!.  so we had to go back up, and on our second try, the top was fully visable and safe, so summit we did.  the last two switchbacks were tough.  all day the skinning was tricky.  slick and slippery.  a lot of shuffling, slipping back and stomping for good traction.  after kevin summited, he helped the three of us with a pole assist to make the final 5 feet safer and easier. 
the top turns were stiff and hard, but 50 feet off the summit, again, the skiing was fantastic. 

and then back to the car.  remember, it is the middle fork, and it is a medium to low snow year, so the bushwacking is formidable.  it wasn't horrific, but everyone took a wack or two to the face. 

i am off to ovando this week, then down to downing mountain lodge out of hamilton next week. hope to find some new stuff to write about.  and as usual, want to hear what others are finding.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

holding up

i fully expected to find mostly icy, frozen, rutted CRAP!.  but i did not. sure it was chunky and stiff on the lower half of the mountain, but we have seen worse.  way worse.  surprisingly, the ski areas snow report was not too far off. sure, it is always spoken and written with great joy and cheer, as if everyday is an epic, but it was indeed good skiing today. 
and then it tried to snow. not much, but enough to warrant a phone call to the snowphone in the am.  over 4 new could make some really nice skiing. 

i think i finally found a solution to my personal issues with parking.  go skiing after 1 pm, specifically on days like today. mid week, okay at best skiing, cloudy but not snowing.  i mean, it was pick a spot, any spot.  the cedar lot was so empty and motion free, i was playing a full on game of "chuck-it" with the dogs, with no concerns of hitting a car with the ball, or of a car hitting a dog.  this reminded me of long ago days and conversations of an elusive pipe dream called "cool mtn"  .  more on this concept at some later date.  but for now, it is a place with great skiing, no crowds, great prices and super cheap beer. 
unfortunately i couldn't go for a "cool" beer today at the end.  other priorities, which, in and of itself, seems a contradiction to the true ski bum.  i will try to do better in the future. 

Sunday, January 17, 2010

not too bad

as i expected, the north aspect skiing, into canyon creek, was just fine yesterday.  a really solid base with about 10" to make some easy, fun powder turns.  and surprisingly, even the easy to reach and ski lines in the creek were largely untracked. 
but to my surprise, was how well the front of the mountain skied.  it was not frozen crust everywhere.  although i did not explore widely, it seemed like the mountain skied well throughout, especially the top 2/3.  it sure is crusty in town, but maybe we are going to be lucky on this one. 
still, we need more snow.  this is really apparent when i went for a skate ski out at Stillwater.  some ice and bare spots are already showing up with the warm temps and light rains.  let's hope el nino is not so strong to put us too deep into a drought right now.  just a few storms and a slight drop in temps will do the job. 
i haven't heard anything from others out touring, but am sure they are doing so. is this because no one wants to share what they are doing? or just because everything has stabilized so nicely that everything is a go?  i hope it is the latter. 

Friday, January 15, 2010


got a chance to ski fernie yesterday, thanks to some affordable tickets courtesy of some employees up there.  they have a great system, where all employees get two "friends and family" tickets per pay period, for $30. 
when we got there, it was warm, but felt cold, due to high humidity and a steady breeze.  but we found our friend Tyler, a ski patroller, who said the skiing was great.  well, they got 13 cm of new that night (aboot 5 inches), that came in soft and creamy.  excellent skiing all over, although as the day progressed, the skiing on the lower half became more and more spring-like.  unfortunately, neither currie nor cedar bowls were opened, due to some avalanche safety issues and high fog. (see, we are not the only place that doesn't always get things opened in a timely fashion). it could have also been because the crowds were so low, there was no reason to expend patroller hours getting it open.  we never saw tyler throughout the rest of the day to query him.  fortunately there was plenty of great snow all over the rest of the resort, and we skied untracked and cut up crud all day.  it is a great alternative so close to home, with steeper terrain and more vertical, so cheap tickets or not, a good day to be had. 

so, what did the snow do here?  seems like it was very warm wednesday afternoon, and that the bottom half would likely freeze.  listening to the snow report this am, i am in the belief that this is correct, as big dave talked about great courderoy and backside skiing.  frozen skiing here can be brutal, so if that is the case, we really need some new snow. 

what about the backcountry?  hope to find out a bit tomorrow, but i am guessing that again, lower elevations will be frozen, and north aspects will be the best.  let me know.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

new gear

here is some new info for avy safety gear.  this stuff is getting better, but still expensive.  but keep an eye out, as price and weight come down, this will be the "must" piece of gear for everyone.

The inviting expanse of shimmering snow contrasts with the benign blue

sky above. The ski instructor briefly goes over the planned run, his

first charge glides off into the distance ... and sets off a slab

avalanche. The group all look on helplessly as their friend is buried

under a wall of snow. Bernhard Budaker of the Fraunhofer Institute for

Manufacturing Engineering and Automation IPA knows this kind of scenario

is all too common. But researchers at the Institute recently developed a

new avalanche airbag system for ABS Peter Aschauer GmbH, in which an

electronic unit ensures a ski instructor or friend of any similarly

hapless individual can remotely trigger the airbag stowed in their

backpack. The product went on sale in December 2009. Avalanche airbags

have been in use for over a quarter of a century. A simple tug on the

activation handle will inflate two airbags stowed in a backpack. The

massive extra volume they create gives the body additional buoyancy -

the skier is no longer buried under the snow.

To date, however, the problem has always been that skiers have had to

activate the airbag inflation system themselves. "If skiers fail to

notice in time that they've set off an avalanche, the airbag won't help

them," says Budaker. But now the IPA group manager and his team have

replaced ABS's manual activation unit with an electronic system, and

fitted a new trigger: "We've redesigned the activation handle to

incorporate a number of electronic components, so airbag inflation can

be initiated by other members of a skiing party as well. It will be

perfectly easy to retrofit all the old-style backpacks with the new

system." When the traditional activation handle is pulled, it creates a

pressure wave in the tube, which punctures a gas cartridge and causes

the airbags to inflate. In the new system, a pyrotechnic element is used

to ignite the gas cartridge. As Budaker explains, the electronic

solution offers the advantage of allowing all the airbags carried by a

particular skiing party to be networked: "We transmit on 868 and 915

Megahertz. The optical application programming interface permits

specific groups to be defined. Group members simply need to touch all

their handles together for them to become a unit." One option is for the

ski instructor to be designated the 'master', his charges the 'slaves' -

in this case, only the master can trigger the others' airbags.

Alternatively, all members of the group can be designated masters and

help each other in an emergency. The activation signal currently has a

range of between 350 and 500 meters, but this distance can be extended,

given that every group member effectively acts as a relay station - as

each trigger handle passes on the signal.

Source: Bernhard Budaker Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft

too warm?

could it be too warm.  hard to say without getting out and skiing.  it did not seem like the snow was so warm as to freeze and be hard as a rock, but we should all know within time.  it sure has been beautiful the last few days though.  although i usually notice the scenery around me, having my relatives in town makes me realize how much i do not notice it.  as they stop several times throughout the day to take pictures, or just soak in the beauty, it makes me slow down and do the same.  it is not just about making turns and maximizing vertical, but just enjoying this great life.  you know, "smell the roses". 

i took my dogs on a short cross country ski on the nordic trails of yore, up at the resort.  a few others have been doing the same, so there is a broken trail.  for those who like to just walk around a bunch on skis, even if just for 30 minutes or so, but also want to make some turns, the cross country skiing at the area used to be a great alternative.  but without grooming  it is not as accessible anymore.  but if a few of us keep putting in a new track, we should be able to maintain something.
 i encountered a gal who was snowshoing, and i thanked her for not walking in the ski track.  unfortunately i found out she had only moved out of the track when she saw me.  lets try to be considerate of the different means of transport. 
 my relatives and i were able to fill out a small survey at the summit house, in exchange for a hot chocolate or coffee.  pretty easy if looking for a free drink.  in the box for the question of what could the resort do to make things better, i added a return to trail grooming on the nordic course.  anyone want to help me get the word out that it is still enjoyed and part of a high quality ski resort? 
that's about it today.  hoping for snow. 

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Ah, sweet memories.

Well, now that we've transitioned back into a tropical el nino pattern I thought I would throw out another sunny, cold high pressure photo from a few days ago. This next shot is of that sweet facet layer that's hanging out on the Xmas crust.

more fun

first of all, what a great post and series of pics by brad.  that is really what this is all about. sharing info so we can all have more fun and be safer.  as usual,  a great job with snow info.

i skied the resort with some relatives in town for the week.  the skiing is nothing short of great.  everything is covered, soft and fun.  this is about as close as i am likely to sound like big dave of the resort, but when it is good, well... 

and the fact that there is basically no one around just makes it that much better.  so much fun to ski on the hill with just a scattering of tourists and a few hundred of your own good friends. so see all of you out there this week, and lets hope for some more snow. 

Monday, January 11, 2010

Good skiing along the west side John Steven's Memorial Highway, somewhere between Ouzel Peak and Mount Baptise.

No recent natural avalanche activity, did get one small slab to pull out while putting the uptrack in. Two people had to jump several times to get it to release, 40*, NE aspect.

We anticipated finding wind affected conditions from the much talked about Jan 5 NE wind event, but as you can see... The storm from Jan 1-4 came in from the west and dropped about 35cms with light winds, loading lee slopes with a extra few cms. The light NE wind and flurries on the 5th added and an additional 10cms of light density snow. In the alpine(7000'+) the snow depth was more evenly distributed most likely the winds were a bit more of a factor on pushing things back and fourth, 40cms was about the avg.

Over all storm snow depths varied from 20 - 60cms. Skied all aspects and elevations from 4400' - 7500'. Encountered a slight inversion with a slight temp/rime crust between 6100'- 6500', a suncrust was also evident in a few places.

Had two collapses on southwest facing slopes, after several people made a run. We didn't see any natural avalanche activity, nor experience any other signs of instability.

Here was our main concern... Surface Hoar from the Christmas Holiday Season was still well preserved, but it was inconsistent on where you would find it and with the developing slab on top of it, it kept you thinking. On some protected northerly aspects you could easily dig down with your hand and find it and others not. It was a bit more tricky on southerly aspects, you could still find it easily on shaded and sheltered terrain but on open terrain it had been beaten down a bit by the sun but was still there.

As the top 20 - 60cms settles out and forms a stiffer slab it may be harder to trigger a slide but the likelyhood is still there, and the surface hoar won't be going away anytime soon.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

more rime,

yep, more rime, but the skiing is great.  just hard to see where you are going, what with goggles completely covered in ice.  i try skiing without them, which works, but can be painful on the eyes, and probably not too good for them. 

for those interested beyond the alpine and backcountry, the nordic skiing is great right now. EVERYWHERE!  all the groomed nordic is in thick, and anything that has had a snowmobile track on it is totally fun as well.  it is great way to get some exercise, run the dogs, and get away from the noise and crowds. 

but the resort and backcountry skiing are also great.  some wind loading and more rime and surface hoar continues to add variables to our snowpack, so that caution will be needed beyond the norm all year.  just remember, there might always be a soft or weak spot somewhere nearby that could unleash all hell. 

so i made a trip over to the land of OZ, and found tons of great skiing everywhere we went.  i was with the great AK guide, so when he said we were on the skin track from the east side of Skookoleel towards Oz, i kept my doubt to myself.  i mean, this man guides in the biggest of the mountains.  Alaska, the biggest state, with the biggest lines, of the greatest country, ON THIS PLANET!  well, you get the point.  i thought we needed to go more easterly, but we couldn't see anything, so i did not say anything.  all too quickly we were on top, of what seemed different to what we know to be Oz.  what had happened?  well, we went back up to the top of Skookoleel.  a silly error, but we have all done it at some point.  so we skied another line down skook, and on our second try, found our way to Oz. 

there we met with two other groups, a bunch of old foggies, that we all see whereever we go.  (you might say i am one of those old guys now too, and perhaps people run into me more than they want.  )  the backside of Oz is shaping up, but could still get filled in a bit more, so we stayed in the trees, which are steep and fun.  then back to the southern facing side and down the first of the two most prominent slide paths.  is this Dorothy's, or is it Auntie Em?  i have never known.  it skied big and fast and great and safe, and the exit at the bottom is so filled in that there was no slogging thru brush or wierd tree lines. 

back in bounds, as so often happens, none of our group of three wanted to bother skiing anything besides a groomer.  it is so mentally challenging to go from deep, untracked pow, to inbounds skied up crud, bumps and hard pack. 

off we went to the bierstube for several beers.  even with the weekend crowd, when you only know about a tenth of them, instead of the usual 50 best friends we incur mid week, that place is still a great apres' ski joint.  second perhaps to Moose's down in jackson hole. 

while there, i was approached and asked to mention how much people love the base area facilities.  i asked him to post his own comment, but for now he declined.  but the point is, to many of those with kids, it is a fitting and affordable feature, in what remains a family friendly resort.  so i stand down on that one. at least he agreed with me that the overall parking up there is BAD. oops, i wasn't going to talk about it anymore. 

so hopefully the weather will not get too warm, and the skiing will remain great.  enjoy it while it is, because it is montana, and he can change in a day. 

Could this be somewhere in NW MT?

Thursday, January 7, 2010

clear and cold

is this classic montana or what?  we go from mid 20's deep powder, get hit with some late afternoon rime, then the wind comes ripping in, bringing in a high pressure, super cold front.  in less than 24 hours we have gone from deep pow skiing, to wind blown, soft snow, where wearing all your clothes is necessary. 
fortunately, the wind did not totally rip up the skiing. in fact, it stayed quite nice. 
i spent the day off the resort, in the canyon area, skiing mostly low angle trees, but occasionally venturing onto steeper slopes.  we did not dig a pit, as the cold temps kept us desirous of constant movement.  we had nothing but great skiing conditions, and felt very safe throughout the day.  the biggest impediment to nearly perfect skiing was snow debris off trees that had hardened up like avy debris.  it was easy to recognize, but once buried, might trip up many a skier like a snow snake. 
we could feel the tiny rime layer right at the top of the snowpack from the end of the day on tuesday.  and already surface hoar is forming on top of this crust.  so, yet another layer to be wary of in the future.  i kind of get the feeling that backcountry conditions will be relatively stable, but with hidden pockets of instability.  although this is often the case, with our many buried and super dangerous ice layers, the possibility of small slabs stepping down to these layers is of high concern.  often these hidden pockets are impossible to know.  but it helps to stay away from convex or concave slopes, rollovers onto steep terrain, or anything that seemed to be wind loaded. 
which brings up the concept of "spacial variability".  what does this mean and how important is it? 
i have long had trouble grasping exactly what this means.  but on my trip to sun valley area over new years, we did a short tour near the summit of galena pass.  they have an absolutely horrible and shallow snowpack, even for there.  but we dug two pits, less than 500 yards apart, one approximately 300 feet lower in elevation, both on the same aspect, and similiar slope angles.  why did we dig two pits so similiar.  well, mostly they were easy to dig, due to the shallow snowpack, and we were with a snow nerd , ex of these parts.  the first failed on an "extended column test" on the 16th hit, the 6th from the elbow, Q2.  no propogation.  so a poor quality failure, under moderate, nearing a high pressure hit, that did not move thru the snowpack.  RELATIVELY SAFE.  in the second pit, we had a clean failure Q1, at ECT 13, that completely propogated across the snowpack.  RELATIVELY DANGEROUS!  this is a great example of "spacial variability.  two spots, about the same, but in just slightly different places. one seems safe, the other not. 

how important is it?  read ted's comments from the last blog, and look at the youtube video of the fatality in cook city.  snowmobiliers all over, but he hit the sweet spot.  

okay, enough.  with all that said, we ended our day, somehow on top of a highly visable, beautiful line facing the valley and the base of the ski area.  staying away from a rollover, a convexity and the steeper skiers left line, we minimized our rish, and skied into the open terrain and had perfect turns.  should we have skied this slope? maybe not, but it did not move, and the turns were the best of the day. 

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

GREAT skiing


for once i completely agree with the incredibly fantastical ski reports (sometimes obnoxiously so, in my opinion) of Big Dave.  that was some classic big mountain powder.  fun all day!!

i will say, the crowds on chair one that lasted until 11:30 seemed more like jackson hole, or aspen, then here.  but once hellroaring was opened, well you know. 

so i spent the AM on chair two. i just couldn't deal with the crowd.  skied some old tree lines that so often go ignored.  skied the line where i first understood that i MA was a keeper, as she was right behind me, turn for turn.  then i got in what turned out to be second tracks down the chair 11 (ahem, 8?) lift line.  outsmarted as i understand by one Cam.  it was great, even though a bit more hollywood than i normally prefer.  but super fun.

i got to ski with a ton of different people, so typical of a powder day here, as keeping track of more than one is near impossible.  and one thing for sure is: 
There are a ton of GREAT women skiers here. 
don't get me wrong, but when i first moved here, there were only a handful of good women skiers, very few of whom could keep up on such great powder days.  NOW, they are setting the pace.  and i love it.  chasing courtney, jen (all of them), morgan or any other woman is way more fun that chasing a friel, kelly or wally. 

while on chair two, i rode over a couple stopped hillside for a phone call.  after a run off in the trees (ie not that fast), there they were, still on the phone, one waiting while the other talked.  and the waiter did not look all too happy.  friends on a powder day?  i think not!

anyway, some wind transport  and cold temps may make for some different conditions.  forest service guys are saying considerable and above 5500', and human caused avalanches probable.  this is before the wind. so while i did hear a very favorable report from a highly reliable source, for the canyon and chicken bones, ski with continued care.  we don't need anymore lost skis, broken ribs, or worse. 

new issues

okay, some concerning news to go along with the great and well known news.  so the bad (not yet) news first, since we all know how great the skiing has been.

the big mountain management is seriously considering shutting down all uphill traffic, once the area is open for skiing.  this would mean before and after hours too.  as of now, this is an unofficial discussion, and is not being acknowledged by management, but i have information leading me to believe there has been discussion with our area management with other resort.   although it is just now in the thought process, there has been communication with other resorts as to their policies.  and most other areas do not allow uphill traffic, especially during businesss hours. 

there are a few ideas about how to better control it, but the problem is that visitors have been complaining.  and let's face it, the day customer has WAY more sway than the local pass holder.  this is true in most every ski area in the usa.  so, what can we do. 

first off, stay to the sides of runs, regardless of traffic.  this is probably something we all do, but if you notice someone you know, or even don't, not paying regard to this basic common sense point, it cannot hurt to let them know.   
second, can we come up with one or two main routes to use?  this is something that might fly with the resort.  might be hard to regulate this, but if it can start with us, it will help.
third, and this is a tough one, but dogs are a big part of the problem.  they really want to eliminate dog travel during the ski season.  i love hiking the dogs, but it might be better pre and post seasons. 
this is all very early in the rule changing process, but it might be our time to have our voices heard.  polite letters or emails to the ski resort, conversations with patrol or management about alternatives or solutions.  this is something so many here take for granted, and i for one do not trust ski area management to cater to the local skier.  and as hard as it might be for me to admit this, it might be easier to fight on their terms than our own. 

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

big day

okay, we are back in business.  great snow conditions all over the area.  backcountry should be sweet, although considerable avy conditions. 
i just looked at the avalanche report from stan et. al, and it has not been updated yet today.  it is tuesday, and is supposed to be done, but is not.  humm!  what are they waiting for. 
well, since it was considerable on friday, and with greg's report from shield's, and with all the new snow, i would say likely still considerable.  super care on open slopes over 30 degrees.  hopefully all this warm snow will continue bonding and forming a protective cover over the lower ice layers and facets.  but if it forms a big slab, well, lookout!  which could really happen over the next 36 hours, as high winds are predicted.  perfect for transporting snow.

but for now, we are in store for some amazing skiing all over.  tons of new snow over the past week,  tons of people leaving town, everything is open.  more snow is coming.  and colder temps, which could break down some bonds in the snowpack, making for lighter skiing snow.  this looks like some ideal light snow on top of dense. 

will the lifts open on time?  with 11 new down low, and power off for much of the night, this is a big question.  and if not, how disgruntled will the masses be?  i know my main rant on the parking lots, which i am done with, will pose some issues, as the upper two lots will be empty all AM, while the powder hungry mobs will be slamming their cars wherever they fit.  may be my first ride on chair six for the year. 
see you all out there.  please send in comments on any walking about anyone is doing. 

Monday, January 4, 2010

happy new year

great skiing on the area. backcountry skiing well, but still shaky.  snow and colder temps in the forecast, could be great.  and the holiday crowds seem to be gone.  welcome home.

for those of you who read the glacier country avalanche report, here is a post sent in that contradicts to some extent what they say.  which of course means, make your own judgements and be careful.

Happy New Year to Everyone. Just a little information re: Avalanche conditions in the Marias Pass Area around Mt Shields and Elk Mt. Touring yesterday we found some conflicting results to the current avalanche forecast.. Yesterday we toured the South ridge of Mt Shields. We reached a high point of 6900ft and did a snow pit analysis of the current snow pack. The slope was a West facing slope, Temps were around 28 C and winds were light out of the West. Surface conditions were (20 inches of Fresh snow and Surface Hoar) Ski penetrations around 16 in. The pit still showed effects of the previous weeks warm up and residual icing layer, we found a large consolidated wind slab down to the November ice crust and Faceted snow below. Not getting to into detail on the pit profile we found that the bonding of the upper layers had been relatively strong with compression tests equating to a CT 16 or so (10 hits at the wrist and 6 from the elbow) Producing a fracture at the Dec 23 crust layer with a shear quality of Q2 (Not super clean) This shear did not have a lot of energy. There was a secondary failure in the lower snow pack after a lot of force was given. This pattern was also seen in our shovel shear tests.... We considered the slope to have an avalanche rating of considerable with skier triggered slides possible. We skied a South West facing aspect, 35 degrees with high quality light surface snow (20 in). The skiing was fantastic and we descended 800 ft. We did not witness any slumping, whoomphing or propagation on this descent. High elevation snow pack was supportable and remained stable. We regained the ridge and moved over to the North West aspect of Shields with plans to descent the bowl staying to skiers right. Conditions again were excellent down to the 5800 ft level where snow pack began to thin and we started to get into the rain effected areas. These areas below the 5800ft level were more prone to propagation and slab release. Slabs were soft slabs 12-14 in in depth. A person from a separate party released a slab that ran a few hundred feet with enough debris to injure a skier. This person was not caught in the release. These conditions continued all the way down to the Fielding trail at the 4900ft level. I am writing this report as it is contradictory to the current NFS Avalanche report. Please pass on the information. Ridge lines were corniced from West to East, and some wind loading has occurred. Call me directly if you have any questions. These conditions could change for the worst with rapid warming, or additional snow deposition. Recent report on Jan 1 at 1:00pm it was snowing 2 in per Hr in Essex. Be safe out there. 406-892-2173 ~ Greg Fortin

hope this helps.  see you all.  it should be fun.