Mountain Conditions Roundup: Nov. 27, 2020
Powder Cloud’s Mountain Conditions Roundup highlights key areas in North America we’d consider skiing the week of November 27, 2020. As always, have the proper training and gear. Prepare by utilizing your local avalanche forecast, resources, and weather information. Encourage teamwork. Develop a proper tour plan. Utilize checklists and communication to travel safely in avalanche terrain and reduce risk and consequences. Don’t forget to debrief after the day to reflect on and improve decision making. Find the happiness, safely.
Mount Washington Backcountry
Recent warming and mixture of rain/snow up to 1,500 meters at Vancouver Island’s most popular backcountry spot. Several photos from recent Mountain Information Network trip reports (Avalanche Canada) reveal variable snow depths between 50 centimeters and 1 meter at treeline and tapering off with decreasing elevation.
Strong SE winds over the past few days have battered exposed areas and left a few wind slabs lying around. There’s a 70-centimeter snow depth at Whistler’s Pig Alley near the treeline plot (1,550 meters). Backcountry observers are reporting an average of 1 meter at treeline with 150-200 centimeter snow depth over summer ice on the nearby glaciers. Dense crusts in the lower pack mean the snow carries even in shallow areas. While conditions have improved a lot in the past week, there is not much snow coverage at lower elevations and a lot of ground roughness to be managed when accessing the alpine without a sled or ski lift. Several rider-triggered and natural avalanches reported in the Duffey Lake region last weekend on the N and NW aspects at 1800-2000 meters. See Avalanche Canada MIN reports.
Recent snowfall and wind has upped Wednesday’s (Nov. 25) danger rating to considerable at treeline and above. Despite the fresh windslabs and the persistent slab sitting over the Nov. 5th rain crust 1 meter deep, the interior ranges of B.C. have likely the best quality backcountry conditions. Observers reported surface hoar on Nov. 23 in sheltered locations (that now may be under that fresh windslab), so travellers will want to exercise caution. Glacier Park treeline snow depths (Fidelity station) are 150 centimeters, tapering to around 60 centimeters at the Rogers Pass highway level. With the good coverage, backcountry folks have been hitting all the early season spots in the Asulkan, Connaught, and even the Illecillewaet drainages for the past month. The mountain conditions report shows a recent avalanche estimated 60-80 centimters deep on an east aspect.
Banff National Park
People are getting after it with a lot of tracks reportedly visible from the Icefields Parkway (Highway 93). Bow Summit (HS 60 centimeters @ 2,040 meters), Observation Peak, and Little Crowfoot being the usual early season spots with snow depths at 60-120 centimeters reported at treeline. While not as deep or as well settled as the interior ranges, the cool temps and well settled mid-pack suggest decent early season skiing. The main feature in the snowpack is a forming windslab that has potential to release and step down to the Nov. 5 rain crust, noted 45-80 centimters below surface at treeline. This will also elevate the danger in the alpine.
Public avalanche forecast and MIN trip reports: https://avalanche.ca
Mountain Conditions Report: https://mountainconditions.ca
Mountain Weather Forecast: https://www.avalanche.ca/weather/forecast
Whistler Blackcomb Live Mountain Cams: https://www.whistlerblackcomb.com/the-mountain/mountain-conditions/mountain-cams.aspx
Wayne Flann Avalanche Blog https://www.wayneflannavalancheblog.com (South Coast Mountains)
Mt. Washington, Vancouver Island Live Cams: https://mountwashington.ca/alpine-cam.html
WESTERN UNITED STATES
San Juan Mountains, Colorado
Skiers and riders are starting to hit the backcountry in the Southwest region of Colorado. On Tuesday, a nice system passed through, with areas like Red Mountain Pass receiving 40 centimeters, and Wolf Creek Pass at 60 centimeters with a snow-water equivalent of 2 inches. Recent observations in the Wolf Creek area measured the snowpack height from 120 to 150 centimeters, while 65-100 centimeters reported throughout the rest of the range. Forecasters in the region are concerned about a weak layer in the upper snowpack at the old/new interface. Moderate to strong winds over the past few days from both the SW and NW are stiffening the slab near and above tree line. The snowpack is highly variable especially in the alpine as the region has been buffeted by strong winds over the last few weeks. Since it’s early season, there’s less than desirable coverage, so caution to shallow buried obstacles.
Resources—San Juan Mountains
San Juan Mountains—Resources
Recent Observations & Field Reports
Wolf Creek Ski Area, Snow Report & Weather Forecasts
Silverton Mountain Ski Area, Snow Report.
Mt. Baker area, Washington
One of the better areas for snowfall in the U.S. right now, which is not unusual for the Mt. Baker region. There’s been 30-45 centimeters of new snow recently, with snow levels dropping to 2,000 feet in the last 24 hours. Snow depths reported of 100-150 centimeters above 4,000 feet. Avalanche danger is rated as considerable above tree line as the area’s been hammered by high winds from the SW, developing a wind slab problem on lee aspects. Natural and human triggered avalanches reported recently. Forecasters stress avoiding steep, wind-loaded slopes. Be alert to exposed hazards—open creeks, tree wells, and crevasses.
Resources—Mt. Baker area
Public Avalanche Forecast: NWAC West Slopes North Zone
Recent Observations & Field Reports
Mt. Baker Ski Resort, Snow & Weather Report
The Tetons, Wyoming
November, through the 19th was kind to the Tetons with significant early season snowfall. Only a dusting in the region over the last few days but people are getting out there and hitting it, as they always do in the Tetons. The snowpack ranges from 70-90 centimeters and is reported as mostly stable on all aspects and elevations with a chance of triggering small slab pockets in steep terrain. The primary hazard right now in the Tetons is avoiding shallow buried obstacles—like trees, rocks, and the occasional lost hunter from elk season.
Public Avalanche & Weather Forecast: Bridger Teton Avalanche Center, Teton Area