Observation: Hatcher Pass

Location: Lower Frostbite

Route & General Observations

I googled one of the definitions of Easter: “the joyful end to the Lenten season of fasting and penitence.” Needless to say, intrepid Hatcher Pass recreators have been cunning soft-snow hunters and patient users of the area as we have gone more than 5 weeks without significant snowfall (the last big cycle was 2/22 with 11″). As we finally break the snow fast and celebrate a winter reboot, it’s a good reminder that we are shifting our paradigm from reliable, spring diurnal (above warming days, overnight freezes) back to a winter setup with new snow soft slab instabilities. Luckily, within the forecast area our snowpack has had the time and conditions to heal: we have good structure and stability within the lower to mid pack and our main concern is within this welcomed, large amount of new storm snow.

State Park Ranger Tiffany said the road was terrible above the Gold Mint turn. The upper road and HP Lodge were closed and/or impassable today so observations were limited to lower elevations. With flat light and snow continuing to fall, this was a good excuse to glade ski at lower elevations. Toured up to the lower portion of Frostbite Ridge from the Skeetawk lot to assess new snow and surface instabilities.

Red Flags
Red flags are simple visual clues that are a sign of potential avalanche danger. Please record any sign of red flags below.
Obvious signs of instability
Recent Avalanches?No
Collapsing (Whumphing)?Yes
Cracking (Shooting cracks)?Yes
Observer Comments

At low elevations (below 2,500) in open areas that were not wind affected, I experienced several shallow whumphs. These appeared to be settling storm slabs within new snow.

**Note that poor visibility and road conditions meant that I did not observe avalanche terrain on this tour.

Weather & Snow Characteristics
Please provide details to help us determine the weather and snowpack during the time this observation took place.

-Overcast and snowing between 1400 and 1630. Snowfall rates were intermittent this afternoon, varying from trace to quite a bit harder. By 1645, it was snowing at a rate of S2 (just under 1") per hour.
-Winds were light out of the south.

Snow surface

Snow totals varied throughout the low-mid elevation band. Skeetawk reported 9" overnight from their operational storm board on their website at 0920 this morning. Frostbite weather station (2,700') showed 6" by 1400 and .4" of SWE. Independence Mine (3,550') showed 22" by the late afternoon and 1.5" of SWE. In the field, I was able to find anywhere from 6" just outside of Skeetawk parking lot to closer to 14" at 2,400' in protected, leeward terrain. On windward slopes, I observed scouring down to the St. Patrick's Day warming/Spring Diurnal crust.


It was easy to experience "whumphs" within new storm snow up to 2,900' in wind protected areas. At higher elevations (above 2,500') on lee north facing aspects, I observed harder, cohesive wind slabs (4F hardness). These were easy to get to fail in hand pit tests on melt freeze crusts and buried wind effected snow surfaces.

Photos & Video
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