Sunday, March 2, 2014

Great Start for March 2014: Pow Skiing at Pilot Peak

Temps during the start of this latest precipitation event have been in the mild side, but finally last Saturday night temps dropped enough to allow dryer/colder snow to precipitate at Idaho Central Mountains.
Early morning at MCS
The plan for the day was to have an early start, and ski tour Pilot Peak near the 8000 feet elevation. But once we surpassed the 6400-6500 feet the level the snow started to feel light, and it kept getting better due the very productive 2 cms/hour precipitation rate until late morning.

Between 6000 and 6800 feet there was 20-30 cms of new snow in top of a supportable rain crust. Above 6800 the rain crust became very fragile. This 2 cm thick porous, and decomposing crust layer is undermined by a thin layer of melt freeze recrystallized 'near surface facets'. This layer was very reactive at wind affected spots, producing CT1Q1 scores as well as positive propagation propensity results (ECT & PST). Ski cuts at a small steep test slopes resulted in propagating cracks. It should be noted that due to the soft slab conditions,  stability testing was somewhat ricky to avoid "False Stable" results.

The near surface facets (NSF) buried at 30 cm needs to be tracked, particularly as more NEW snow, warm temps, and winds further develop a potentially dangerous slab at starting zones. Late in the day, winds gained strength and snow transport accelerated. I strongly suggest to look for this reactive layer during the next few days, and perhaps a week or two!

Considering the snowpack conditions we scrapped our plans to ski Top Of The World, and instead harvested the new 30 cms of snow at Summit Creek Glades, since these slopes were not impacted by the prevalent west winds, and there are few locations with terrain steeper than 35 degrees.

Check the next short video clips . Snow looks good and ...  it was indeed very niiiiiiice!

Through out the day we had extremely poor visibility, and had limited chances to snap pics, thus the above videos happens to be the only mean for readers to realize how much fun are the current conditions at Mores Creek Summit, particularly above 7000 feet.
As the day progressed temps increased from -5 Deg-C to +1 Deg-C by 1 PM, and unavoidably snow densified, the difference in snow density above and below 6800 feet became more pronounced. But there was a third snow transition zone at MCS summit today. Later in the day, as temps augmented, steep south aspect slopes at the 5900-6200 feet started to produce numerous small wet loose releases.

After snapping few pics of wet releases at Lamar Ridge South aspects, I continued to ski down, where a small procedural ski cut at a 34 deg slope with North aspect surprised me by releasing a small but punchy wet slab. I was not particularly surprised by the release, but how energetic was this release for its tiny and wimpy size.
The wet releases were the result of the new snow becoming excessively moist, turning into slush, and sliding above the exiting low elevation rain crust.

Below I include some pics of the lower slopes, close to the Summit Creek bottom. Notice the much improved snow coverage. Last two winters MCS did not have as good snow coverage as we currently have. Impressive how February has delivered! Skiers - get out, it was awkward how few were BC skiing today!

Last Friday I ski toured Fisher Creek Saddle with Dave Bingman, director of Payette Avalanche Center. We did a lot of nerdy snow research work, but still saved time for pow skiing. The sky opened only for a very brief moment and the next pictures are some of the few we were able to snap. Needless to say - the terrain is bitching nice!

Some of the research stuff we did Friday was to use Boise State University miniFMCW radar that Pedro and I have developed to compare snow stratigraphy few meters behind a cornice, and 3 meters away on the windward side of the ridge. The difference in snow depth (distance to the ground) and layering between two locations just 3 meters away is simply mind boggling!
Finally - Remember it is March. There are not too many days left of POW skiing. Make a point of getting out!