- It is best to use the summer forest service roads to access Pilot or Sunset Peaks. The roads allow climbing above the 7000 feet in elevation. At that elevation, there is enough snow coverage to make skiing safe and keep the base of your boards healthy and scratch free.
- The persistent slab problem is let's say "persistent". Stability tests and slopewise collapses (Whumpfs) continue unabated. Snow pits for December 25, 27, 31 and January 2 are remarkably similar.
- With careful selection, there are northerly aspects that continue to provide fun skiing. Other aspects have a variable rain crust making skiing instructional.
Below I included for illustrative purposes the snow pit profiles for December 25 at Pilot Peak and for Sunset Peak yesterday (January 2). With the exception of the surface crust developed last week and the densification of the top slab, both profiles are remarkably similar for two locations, particularly when the two snowpit locations are several miles apart and with somewhat different aspects. The first snow pit profile corresponds to Sunset Peak recorded yesterday, and the second to Pilot Peak last Christmas day.
The next video summarizes the propagation test results from January 2 at Sunset Peak. The ECT failed at 18 taps, while for the PST type of tests the fracture propagation was arrested after the slab fractured. The slab fracture for the PST and CPST (horizontal experimental test) at 60 cm after a critical saw cut of 25 and 23 cm respectively.
SunsetJan2_2018 from Santiago Rodriguez on Vimeo.
We also experienced a significant slopewise collapse at the same slope we conducted the stability test.
PilotPeakDec31_2017 from Santiago Rodriguez on Vimeo.
As an avalanche educator, I understand the challenges of trusting stability test results. The secret is in the doing. It is about getting used to completing two CTs, and ECT in less than 15 minutes (including digging). And it is about learning that stability tests are not the only piece of data - That way the pressure is off. When you are doing tests early in the season you are getting a fundamental understanding (and feeling) of how the snowpack evolves. Doing snow pits is like taking the "vital signs", it seems boring at first, you do it when the patient is not sick, but then, the value is when the vital signs change and you are able to recognize that something is "not right"!
And it gets easier to integrate weather, temps, wind, and precipitation to anticipate avalanche type and trigger likelihoods. And you will be surprised that as the winter progresses you are actually doing fewer stability tests and relying more on other observations. In the spirit of encouraging the blog readers to play (yes play) with snowpits, I include one more video with the stability tests performed last December 31st.
StabilityTestsPilotDec31_2017 from Santiago Rodriguez on Vimeo.
Finally - I wish to this blog reader, the most wonderful NEW YEAR!