Thursday, January 10, 2008


The creation of this blog is the result of conversations with John Taggart (Idaho-NSP Avalanche Educator) and Janet Kellam (Sun Valley Avalanche Forecaster and President of the American Avalanche Association) during the National Avalanche School - 2007. We felt that the Mores Creek Summit backcountry user community would greatly benefit from a forum where information about snow conditions can be shared.

The Mores Creek Summit is a popular winter recreation area with fabulous terrain and incredibly varied winter touring opportunities. It is indeed a precious gem. I had been skiing there for 15 years, and it is where my kids developed their backcountry skills while skiing at Freeman and Pilot Peaks. For this reason this area very special to me.

During the last few years the winter visitors to Mores Creek Summit has dramatically increase. Information about snow conditions was shared by word of mouth. But that is not adequate anymore, and it is my hope that this blog could serve as a tool to better share snow conditions, as well as allow for the local backcountry community to network, share snow stability assestments, and make friends.

I think it will be a good idea to start this blog by inquiring about potential names for the most popular ski runs. In the spirit of initiating the conversation I include below a topo map with names used by my sons, acquaintances and myself. I have NO idea how we will reach concensus - but we will figure it out together as we go forward.

The next posting (this weekend) will have the first snow assestment to be posted on this blog. Snow assestment for the early season is available - but the NEW snow from the 1/7 thru 1/11 - makes the pre-1/7 data less valuable. Let me know if there is interest on it and I will be more than happy to post it.

One final note: In order improve communications it is strongly suggested that we follow the guidelines and conventions from Snow, Weather, and Avalanches: Observational Guidelines for Avalanche Programs in the Unites States.

I recommend purchasing the document at:

or printing it from the following link:

Furthermore, I will be sharing snow assestmant data based on the Snow Pit Technologies " Snow and Avalanche Field Book", also known as the BLUE book. The field notebook can be acquire at:



  1. Awesome Chago. Thanks for taking the initiative on this as I think it will be a valuable resource. See you up on Freeman's soon. -BONDO

  2. I was on Pilot today (Feb. 6th). On the slopes I skied, there was only minor near-surface sloughing on the steepest pitches. There is a moderately dense layer 1-2 feet down, but it wasn't slabby. The only wind-affected snow was in the usual spots right along the ridgeline.

    However, while skinning up I noticed a rather large, fairly recent (this past weekend?) avalanche that occurred on a steep, south-facing slope that is on the south side of That Knob ridge. I skied this slope back in late Dec. with a group of guys and it was delightful.

    It was a gray day so the photos didn't turn up well, but you should be able to see the 2 foot thick crown that extends much of the way across the slope in this photo:

    Here's a close-up of most of the crown:

    Normally I wouldn't be too riled up about this avalanche because it was on a slope I wasn't considering skiing, except that there are several ski tracks heading straight into the crown (i.e., it appears as though several skiers skied down this slope shortly before (during??) the avalanche). If you squint, you can see these tracks just to the left of the shaggy looking tree at the top middle of the crown:

    I thought about getting close to the debris pile and putting my transceiver into search mode, but I realized it wouldn't have made any difference since this the avalanche was clearly a few days old.

    The other peculiar thing about this avalanche is that it looks like it may have been triggered by the fallen tree that lies just below the crown. The tree clearly broke away from it's roots just above the crown and now lies on the bed surface. If the falling tree triggered the slide, one would expect the tree to have been carried further down the slope. Maybe the tree fell onto the bed surface after the avalanche occurred? Strange, very strange.

    I didn't investigate this slide any further, but I suspect it failed on the sun crust formed during the January dry spell. Today's Sun Valley avalanche advisory talks about this:
    "In the North Valley and Sawtooth Mountains the biggest problem seems to be located on solar aspects and involves a crust/facet interface approximately 2 to 2.5 feet deep. Yesterday I observed and received reports of large south facing natural avalanches that appeared to have released as a result of daytime warming. East aspects are also holding onto shears caused by buried near surface facets within the top couple of feet of snow. In addition to these pre-existing layering problems yesterday’s wind and today’s increasing winds are building new wind slabs and wind pillows on both south and east aspects. As the wind deposits snow onto these aspects the problem layers will get deeper and potentially produce fracture lines 3 to 4 feet deep."

    I recommend on staying off steep south-facing slopes until they are corned up in March or April.

  3. Hey Jim--good ski partners noticed the same thing when they were back up there the next day (that's our tracks above it). They came to the same conclusion about the tree falling over & triggering the slide ( the tree came down Sunday night; it got fairly windy after we left that day). As to your comment about the tree falling AFTER the avalanche occurred, I think that's doubtful. That was a pretty big snag with a lot of weight in the upper branches. That thing hit the snow with tremendous force, especially after launching off the steep slope. I would think that kind of impact could trigger a slide. When it hit the snow, the branches probably impaled the snowpack deeply enough to penetrate most of the layers, anchoring it firmly in place even as the snow slid around it. That's my theory, anyway...I'm glad we weren't underneath it when it came down! ;-)

  4. Yesterday I visited the slide area described above and got a better perspective on things. The tree lying on the bed surface is much larger than I had guessed when viewing it from across the gully, and it had traveled much further down the slope than I had guessed. Thus, I agree with Anonymous that the fallen tree must have triggered the slide. I spoke with Anonymous on the hill yesterday about this. Nice to meet you, Anonymous, and I hope to take a run or two with you next time we meet.

    Now as to the present condition of the can figure out what I think about it by the fact that I am sitting at home today rather than out skiing. Hopefully it will improve by the middle of the week. Any observations by folks out there today or early in the week would be appreciated.


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