The deep freeze has set in. Minus single digits from the parking lot to Pastoral
to Sunburst. The sun was out in full force but the westerly winds were relentless.
Wind loading. Winds were moving a lot of snow around and plumes were visible
throughout the day off peaks and ridgelines. Mainly from a westerly direction
(plumes to the east) but lots of variability with terrain channeling. However,
much of the wind blown snow seemed to get sublimated away in the dry clear air.
Wind slabs were fairly shallow in the one foot range or less.
Recent avalanches. Saw a few wind slabs folks were able to pop out in steeper
and more complex terrain, mostly small but running far. Human triggered sluffing
on steep slopes was also observed.
Old avalanches. There were several older slab avalanches (likely from 1/23 – 1/24)
triggered by cornice falls. Photo of one on Kickstep Mt below. These were on all
aspects at the upper elevations.
Above 2000′: Variable wind affected snow. Boot top powder in sheltered locations
to hard wind affected snow on ridgelines.
Below 2000′: Supportable crust with a couple inches of low density snow that was
being blow around into shallow drifts.
Wind slab with current wind loading was our primary concern above treeline.
Persistent deep slab was secondary concern, also above treeline.
First real sunny conditions for a long(ish) day out in the backcountry and it
seemed many folks were taking advantage of that!