During the past week there have been a few reports trickling in and one human triggered avalanche in the Front Range area. Snow cover right now starts just above 2000ft and is nil to a couple feet deep in catchment zones. Below is a photo of Seattle Ridge from the Center Ridge parking lot on Wednesday, November 6th.
As we head into the weekend we have a storm on tap that will hopefully produce in our neck of the woods. In this case, we need to get our avalanche game on. Things to be on the lookout for are both storm snow instabilities as well as how the new snow is sticking to the variety of preexisting surfaces.
Storm snow instabilities: These are in the form of fresh wind slabs, sluffing in the new snow or soft slab avalanches often due to upside-down storms. Simply being aware of your surroundings can tell you much about what type of storm snow issues you may have to deal with.
Preexisting surface concerns:
– Bare ground. This can be a problem when the ground is warm. If new snow stacks up quick enough, storm snow can be lubricated from underneath and slide – either in a slab or a point release avalanche.
– Old snow – above 2000ft. We have little information on the preexisting snow at the higher elevations but all signs point to it being mostly loose and faceted (photo below). This is due to our recent cold/dry spell. Other types of surfaces that have been reported are hard windpacked snow, wind/rain crusts and creamy recycled powder. Though none of these surfaces are great for new snow to bond with, it is the loose faceted snow that seems the most prevalent and is a textbook weak layer. Any snowfall or wind deposited snow on top of this is a perfect avalanche producer. If we do happen to get enough snow to lure folks out I’d be very suspect of areas with old snow underneath – these areas are usually the same places we want to recreate.
Loose faceted snow from 2,400ft on Seattle Ridge – Friday, Nov 8th.
A note on rescue gear:
If you haven’t done so already, make sure all your rescue gear is in order. That means putting new batteries in your beacon and cleaning the terminals if necessary. Check to see if the cable that holds your probe together is still well intact at the hinge points and not going to break upon assembly. Is your airbag working properly? The American Avalanche Institute has a bunch of great blogs to peruse as we await the white stuff.
We will be updating this advisory page intermittently during November due to lack of snow cover. As soon as the snow flies in earnest we will begin issuing full advisories.
For anyone getting around the mountains – please send us your observations!!