Sunday, November 13, 2011

Copper Mountain - November 13 2011

This last weekend, two winter storms jump started the Backcountry skiing season in Idaho. After snotel encouraging reports of new snow overnight at Banner Summit, it made sense to pay a visit to Copper Mountain.

Idaho City Visitor center on the drive to Banner Summit - Copper Mountain

For Copper Mountain North-West, West and South aspects, at 7000 feet the snow depth was 20-25 cm, at 8000 feet 25-30 cm, and less than 20 cm above 8500 feet due to wind transport.

The new snow was ~10-12% dense, and it will make a great "starter" base. In fact the new snow was exceptionally well distributed below 8000 feet, and if we get the additional snow forecasted through this week, and if we very lucky to exceed the 50 cm total snow depth, the skiing lower in the mountain might be the best November BC skiing at Banner Summit for the last 5-6 years!

However, I need to emphasize that if we do not get NEW snow, the skiing at Copper Mountain will remain dangerous due to MANY buried obstacles, as it can be observed in the video included below:

In order to maximize "float" and not destroy my Wateas skis with rocks, logs, frozen dirt, I resisted the temptation to ski steeper terrain and mostly skied low angle slopes.

The coverage below Copper Summit was poor and I decided not to summit. There is not enough snow, and it would have required walking down. It is likely that most of the snow from the South face was blown into the N and NE slopes facing the Sawtooth valley.

Coper Mountain Summit behind the fog.

Not surprisingly, above 8000 feet, where the new snow was sitting in top of facetted snow and/or wind driven snow from Saturday windy front, it was easy to hear the snowpack whumpfing (collapsing!). Also, in the flats at 7000 feet sporadic whumpfs were produced too due the formation of soft slabs (snow settlement and snow grains rounding & sintering resulting in densification of the new snow).

Be mindful of buried depth hoar early in the season due to shallow snowpack. Whumpfing suggest that there is fracture propagation propensity, and that a human is likely to trigger an avalanche if the terrain is steep enough.

By the way, avalanches at Alta-Utah became a problem this Sunday afternoon. And another rider died at Snowbird:

After a wintry storm made driving dangerous Sunday morning, an unstable snowpack made skiing hazardous Sunday afternoon.

Four avalanches were reported Sunday afternoon, with one person suffering a leg injury, said Brett Kobernik, an avalanche forecaster with the Utah Avalanche Center.

Three of the avalanches were definitely human-triggered, and it appears likely the fourth one was as well, according to Kobernik.

All four were in the Alta Ski Resort, which has not yet opened for the season. Skiers need to treat the resort as a backcountry ski area because there are no ski or avalanche patrols, he said.

The layer of snow that fell in October is weak and sugary and now covered with heavier snow from the recent storm.