Mountain Conditions Roundup — Special Advisory: Jan. 4, 2021

Mountain Conditions Roundup — Special Advisory: Jan. 4, 2021

There is currently some impressive weather occurring along the south coast of British Columbia and the Northwest United States. A series of low pressure systems (view here at UW Atmospheric Sciences) are assaulting the Northwest coast and delivering significant precipitation to the mountain ranges of Coastal B.C., Washington, Oregon, Idaho, northwest Montana, and northwest Wyoming.

Scanning the regions’ various avalanche reports, we note high danger ratings for zones in the Cascades, Sawtooths, Sierras, Wallowas, Vancouver Island, and Northwest coastal, and considerable ratings for most other zones. Dangerous avalanche conditions are expected throughout the rest of the week in all areas impacted by the current weather systems.

If you are traveling into the backcountry in these areas this week, you need to be extremely cautious. Please review your local avalanche report. Keep it mellow and limit exposure by avoiding steeper slopes.

Here are some choice and recent excerpts from regional avalanche centers impacted by current weather systems hitting the Northwest. 

Forecasted giant frontal wave for Tuesday, Jan. 4. Mountain Weather Forecast, Avalanche Canada

Vancouver Island Avalanche Centre

From Bill Phipps at Vancouver Island Avalanche Centre: “Ok I guess I am a little concerned and also a bit disappointed. Over the past three days I have got a few reports of skiers triggering avalanches (luckily without consequences), heard reports of numerous avalanches triggered by sleds and then to cap it off an out of bounds boarder triggered a slide near Mt Washington on Wednesday, spent the night out and now will have to deal with some very serious possibly life altering injuries. To be blunt… What is it about HIGH HAZARD that folks did not comprehend? High as stated by the Avalanche Canada website states ‘Very dangerous avalanche conditions. Travel in avalanche terrain is NOT recommended. Natural avalanches likely human triggered very likely. Large avalanches in many areas and very large avalanches in specific areas….’ So it is easy, stay out of ALL avalanche terrain when the bulletin says HIGH. It is just that simple. Trust me we forecasters don’t use HIGH lightly and really think before we select that box. And really it is not that often we see HIGH on the island bulletin. Take it from me, one who has been involved in avalanche incidences where folks have been seriously hurt and even died, you don’t want this to be a part of your life and don’t want your families to deal with the loss of YOU… It is not cool!”


Avalanche Canada – Sea to Sky Zone

Snowfall amounts are uncertain on Monday in the midst of an active weather pattern. If it snows a lot, expect reactive storm slabs, choose simple terrain, and avoid overhead hazard. If it snows a little, expect reactive storm slabs, choose simple terrain and avoid overhead hazard.


Northwest Avalanche Center — Washington

Very dangerous avalanche conditions will exist through the forecast period. Another 1 to 2 feet of new snow by Monday afternoon will bring snow totals since Saturday to 4-plus feet… Only venture out during the storm if you are confident in your ability to identify and avoid avalanche terrain. 


Sawtooth Avalanche Center — Idaho

The weak snow that is buried in our snowpack will be pushed past its breaking point today. If you are out in the early morning hours it will feel a lot like yesterday, which was plenty dangerous. If you are out after the storm has been raging for an hour or two, you will find yourself in a different world. Avalanches will become much larger and much easier to trigger as the day progresses… Mother nature will be putting on one heck of a wild show today and tomorrow. Let’s all stick around to see it.


Sierra Avalanche Center — California

Rapid new snow loading, drifting snow from gale force winds, and the stressing of older weak layers within the existing snowpack will create very dangerous avalanche conditions today. Avoid travel in, below, or adjacent to avalanche terrain. A rapid increase to HIGH Avalanche Danger will occur for all elevations today.


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