Saturday, December 25, 2010

merry christmas!!!

well, hope santa treated you all well this am. skies are clearing the day should be nice on the hill, and great in the BC.

yesterday i took some time to hike up the Big. with the snow packed, some spots were slick on the lookers left of toni matt. it is definetely tougher than preseason going right up the middle. but what i really want to say is how rude som many snowboarders were. i am sure they feel in complete control, but please, give us hikers some space. i had at least 5 come with 5 feet of me, at high speeds. the closest skier was probably 10 feet, and not as fast. once or twice i even flinched. i know it is more crowded up there right now, with out of towners and all, but in a gross generalization, i find snowboarders much more arrogant, obnoxious and oblivious to others on the hill. come on guys, we all play together. anyone?

it will be my last time hiking until the crowds die down, and glad to get one in, and the weather was fantastic. really, this is perfect weather and conditions for visitors. i hope we get enough new snow to keep things good, but let the big storms and cycles start again in earnest on jan 3.

happy new year all. hi ho silver, away!!!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas

and happy holidays too.

without much new snow for a week plus now, not too much to talk about. nordic has been great, and hiking is going well, with growing surface hoar fun at the moment. but we know what that can mean later.

hopefully the GCAC website is going to make posting observations easier for all, not just trained observers. this is likely going to be our best way of keeping an eye on what is happening out there in the Backcountry (along with this blog and the nordic ski patrol website), as the usfs is not likely to improve it's forecasting or teaching or outreach. it is what it has always been, a slight drop from mediocre at best.

so hope everyone stays safe happy and healthy.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

some good snow

well, right after it rained, it snowed. if you read or call into the big mtn's snow report, you know big dave can get excited about no new snow and big time groomers. but so far this year, most of his exclamations have been spot on.

we did get some rain, all the way to 7000'+, but it was followed by snow, some heavy, then some light. so the skiing the last three days has been quite nice, especially above 6000'. and with no one on the hill, it felt like old times. just a few local skiers. even the stube had that feeling. 20-30 good friends toasting another good day as the sun leaves the sky and darkness falls.

yesterday i did a short tour up near baby's butt. we dug a pit at about 6500'. pit depth was 221cm. note, this is much deeper than the big is reporting on top. the top 40cm were all new from the last 4 days, sitting on a brutal ice crust formed during the rain cycle. but right now, there is not a fragile layer sitting on top of that ice. in an extended column test, we got absolutely no failure. even with a shovel shear test (yes, i realize this is not a good test, but we had already done the important stuff, and had to break down the pit anyway) the first failure was below this crust.

we did find some significant temperature variation in the top 50cm, which will be worth watching, and with yesterday's clear skies, a significant hoar frost had already developed. i expect it has grown some more.

so the skiing was excellent, boot top, super light, and for the top 1000' vert, we mostly stayed off the crust. but as we dropped in elevation, that crust became more prevalent, and it skied more like dust (a lot of dust) on crust.

below the ice crust, we found mostly four finger hardness until we reached the bottom 60cm. at 49 cm was another significant crust, and from 60cm down, was a bunch of unconsolidated junk.

so for now, i think the skiing is pretty safe, at least on the north aspects we skied. we saw multiple tracks on the skookoleel face, Oz face and a couple of skook chutes, which all looked good. even the snowmobiliers were high pointing beyond what i would ever consider without causing harm. hard to call it all good, but for a couple of days, with this high pressure, it seems pretty safe.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Weather review

okay, i have to admit , i have not been skiing since saturday, when the weather took a turn for the worse. i know there have still been some pretty good wet powder turns to be made, but i have not made them. mostly i have been busy moving snow and hanging on a rope knocking out blocks of ice off tall roofs near the mountain, to keep owners and renters safe.

yet again, another poorly designed roof in snow country, all for the name of asthetics. i guess, when people are willing to pay for underground, outdoor heating to keep their driveways clear, a few hundred dollars a week for ground and roof snow removal is of no concern.

temperatures are cooling and the skiing up high should be good, but below maybe 6000' might be crust o'rama. not sure about the backcountry, but perhaps some colder temps will give snowpacks time to bond and stabilize.

i have not been on a rant much at all this year, but here we go. last night i went to an event sponsored by Glacier Country Avalanche Center and the USFS. Stan Bones gave a 2 and 1/2 hour weather presentation that for the most part was good, but for someone who gets paid to do avalanche forecasts,study and summarize weather concerning snow conditions, and in general, be a liasson to the public, he sure said "I don't know" a lot. i mean, come on stan, you should have a far better understanding of the "el nino" and "la nina" effects. the public is not expecting a climate specialist, but a generalization of where these effects begin, and why and how they affect weather patterns. perhaps a panel discussion would be a better forum, so there might be people to answer questions he does not know.

Weather review

Sunday, December 12, 2010

too warm

first of all. take a look at the GCAC website.
some new observations showing some buried crust and depth hoar layers, on multiple aspects. and with this new snow coming, things are going to be dicey.

unfortunately, the next 48 hours the temps are right on the edge of rain/snow, even up to elevations of 7000'. even if this precip stays as snow, it will be heavy and wet. this will put further pressure on buried layers and create likely substantial avy conditions.
a good time to stay in the trees and places you know. and be extra cautious, skiing one at a time with good spotters.

i was lucky to get in some deep turns yesterday off the hill, and on, in the just opened western bowl. it was fantastic. hellroaring also skied well, as did canyon creek. the canyon is starting to fill in nicely, and snow seemed super stable, but again, this new wet stuff changes all that. heard rumors of one of the skook chutes sliding to the road, but if so, it must have been down the canyon a ways, as we did not see any evidence. but this is one of those times now, the walk up the canyon road is as dangerous as the ski down the north side. and skiing any of the chutes, well, i won't be anywhere near there myself. nough said.

with hellroaring basin now open, the skiing on the hill should just get better, as the crowds spread out. if we can just get snow and not rain, this could be an exceptional week. one of our best in december in a long time.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

new snow and other delights

what a whopper yesterday was. early season pow days, and just a few people around to tear it up. okay, the local herds got after it pretty good, and by mid afternoon, it was plenty beat up. still good skiing, but no clear lines left. i tried some of the lower mountain tight tree lines, and although they were clear, the snow still needs to fill in some, as they are TIGHT!

the forecast for the hills is about as good as it gets. tons of snow in the next 5 days. in town, the temps are drifting upwards, and it looks like rain. lets hope for some luck on the temps and let the valley snow grow, making for excellent nordic and xmas conditions.

take a look at the GCAC website i believe, or the nordic ski patrol's website, for two cool open house, open forum discussions coming up the next two tuesdays, one on weather, the other on backcountry ski conditions. should be better than the usual lecture series.

i also have been meaning to write about the great dog conditions we have had so far this year.

preseason was perfect. great snow, no rules, and plenty of dogs everywhere. i heard not ONE complaint from management. that is what pre and post season are all about. and so far dogs have been having a blast in the parking lots. i hope i am not jinxing this, and it continues. it is nice to bring the hounds along and let them get some play time with other canines and their owners, instead of being ignored at home. let's all pitch in and keep it clean, and maybe, just maybe, we can continue to enjoy the freedoms for ourselves and our beloved pets.

lastly, as usual, a caution for the backcountry. with this new snow, and plenty of bad layers, it is now time to really start paying attention. we have sun crusts, wind crusts, surface hoar on the north sides, and lots of new snow. great skiing for sure, but don't go jumping on wind loaded pockets on any exposures. i just don't think enough bonding has occured.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

too much sun

okay, i am sure some of you can never have too much sun, especially at this time of year, but that is indeed what we got yesterday. the sun, the inversion of warm air both contributed to a change in the snow. eastern exposures were deteriorating by noon or so. southern got hit too. not only has this changed the skiing for now, it could be an problem in the future. but with more snow in the forecast, hopefully this will only be a quick blip on the screen to more great skiing.

Monday, December 6, 2010

opening weekend,

well, ski season officially began this weekend, if you go by actual openings at resorts. but not only did the Big Mountain open its lifts, but Stillwater Nordic, the golf course and Round Meadow are all groomed and ready for action. it is as good an early december as we have seen in well over a decade.

the ice layer that formed tuesday afternoon and wed. am has blended in for the most part with the continual snowfalls thru friday. not that this means the backcountry is safe forever, as that layer is still existant in many places. but the skiing barely suffered. Saturday was a "hard" opening on the Big, as it was completely open except for Hellroaring Basin, which did not even seem to be getting much poaching, as the skies were clear up above 6000 feet. (and on the east side, skies were just plain clear).
although crowded, it was just a fun day. skiing almost with impunity so early in the year, not worried about hidden rocks and stumps is a treat. not that this is completely true, but with moderate caution it was easy to escape the hazards.

skate skiing at Stillwater is in good shape, with about 90% of their trails open, including all the way out on the road, some 8km each way. another six inches and they will be in full mode, with total coverage, and should be in really great shape for the holidays, which were missed last year.

i took a look at round meadow, and it has been rolled, but not groomed, so bring classic style, and call the USFS for updates. but they have enough coverage and i would imagine a full grooming sometime this week.

i also believe the golf course is up and running. Ron at Glacier Cyclery now owns the Outback Ski Shack, so call there for an update, or look online for Glacier Nordic.

some friends went to the east side to ski one of the more popular mountains on morias pass, but i cannot say the name due to issues from this subject last winter. i could not attend but reports were blue ski, great coverage and boot to knee deep pow. report are also in from areas of the swan, and they too are great. might even be time to take a look into the middle fork, as rumors are of solid coverage.

it was just a great weekend, with parties (great job brad and GCAC on the slide show, hope you found an outlet for the remaining beer) the stube in full action, great college football. it is just a fun time of year. lets eat, pray and love for the continuation of the snowfall.

opening weekend,

Thursday, December 2, 2010

two more days

yes, the bad news is there is a crust. many of us assumed it was a rain layer, but after talking with an employee from the mountain (one who works outside, not at a desk), it only rained at the very bottom of the hill. but on tuesday, just for a brief time, it warmed up enough to create some moisture on top of the snowpack, which then refroze. regardless, it is a frozen layer.

that being said, the skiing was still okay. and the coverage supreme. the same employee said he believes they are opening all runs on saturday, which is as it should be. imagine, opening up 100% (oops, i bet this will not include west bowl, which could mean some great sneaks).

but do not forget about this new layer. and there is plenty of windblown snow and layering about as well.

if you look at this post, read the next few. some good things coming on line.

important reading material

below is the website to look at this research. many of you likely already know of this, but it is good reading, and important. for more info, highlight this site and paste it onto your browser window.

Everybody knows that skiers swishing down steep slopes can cause extensive slab avalanches. But there is a less well known phenomenon: A person skiing a gentle slope in the valley triggers a slab avalanche on a steeper slope, sometimes several hundred metres further uphill. This scenario doesn't seem to make sense - yet it claims human lives year after year.

But what exactly happens when an avalanche is remotely triggered? 'In a slab avalanche, the upper layer of snow slides down into the valley. For that to be able to happen, it first has to become detached from the layer beneath it,' says Prof. Dr Peter Gumbsch, director of the Fraunhofer Institute for Mechanics of Materials IWM in Freiburg. The view commonly held until now assumes that the layers of snow are separated by shear cracks - the upper layer shifts within a limited area. If the two layers of snow were two hands placed palm to palm, a shear crack would be equivalent to rubbing one hand against the other. The layers of snow can only shift if the slope is steep enough. Shear cracks may be a satisfactory explanation for the breakaway of snow slabs in steep terrain. But how can they be triggered from a distance?

Gumbsch and his colleagues Michael Zaiser and Joachim Heierli at the University of Edinburgh, Scotland, have developed a physical model that explains this phenomenon. 'The boundary layer that connects the upper and lower layers of snow is made of ice crystals with fairly large interstices,' explains Heierli. The pressure exerted by a skier can cause the ice crystals to break, separate from one another and slip into the interstices - the layer collapses. The layer on top of it subsides. This mass collapse, which can be described as an anti-crack, releases energy that has not previously been taken into account. This energy enables the crack to propagate. To return to our previous analogy, the anti-crack would be like pressing the two hands together. Experiments carried out by Canadian researchers at the University of Calgary confirm the theory: Whether the slope is gentle or steep, it is equally difficult to trigger the collapse. Once it has started, it propagates as an anti-crack. It can move up or down the mountain and grow to a length of several hundred metres within a few seconds: The layers of snow lose their cohesion. Only the forces of friction can then prevent the snow from slipping. If these are insufficient, the upper layer slides off and a slab avalanche begins.

Conditions in the Swans

Don was in the Swans yesterday, December 1, and is happy to report there is no rain crust there. There seems to be a rain crust that is showing up on Big Mtn and up the Middle Fork but it is not in the Swans! In the Swans there is good stability and good skiing!

RMO Special Events

December 4 - Open House. Discounts, breakfast treats & of course free gift wrapping!

December 9 - Wax Clinic by Chad Castren - learn how to wax those nordic skis for fast!

Shop is open Sundays in December before Christmas - 12pm - 4pm!

February 12, 13 - Heads up for RMO/Essex Family Race Weekend - this sells out fast - call the
Izaak Walton Inn for their special race weekend pricing and reservations.