Observation: Turnagain

Location: Sunburst

Route & General Observations

Tour up the common west ridge of Sunburst to 3,000′. Descended main SW face in very low visibility (cotton ball) conditions.

On the drive, light rain was falling in Portage to around 500′ going up the Pass, then a mix till ~800′ when light snow started falling.

Red Flags
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Observer Comments

Only sign of instability was NE winds transporting snow over the higher ridges (Sunburst, Mangum). Seen during a short period of decent visibility.

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

32F in parking lot, seemed close to 30F at 3,000'
Light snowfall - adding just a trace through the day, picking up as we left around 230pm.
Winds were moderate, NE, along ridge. Stronger winds at higher elevations.

Snow surface

Trace of snow on crust from the parking lot (900') to around 1300'.
Around 1400' the crust goes away and soft warm heavy snow exists that becomes fairly dry by 2,000'.
Above 2,000', some wind effect along with dry settled powder.


One snowpit at 2,900', SW aspect, 35* slope, total snow depth (HS) was 160cm (~5')
Stability test results showed no concerning buried weak layers - at this location.
ECTN 29 @ the interface between NY storm and Xmas storm 45cm (18") down. This means we could get a failure (after a lot of force) in the layer but it did not propagate. This is consistent with how storm snow layers bond with each other after a couple days. Good sign.
No other failure seen. The December facets under the Xmas storm could have been skied over so even though they were not reactive, I'm suspect this was really an inconclusive result.

Bottom line: Snowpack looked to be stabilizing at the elevations below 3,000' where we traveled. It was clearly still blowing in the higher terrain and could be a whole different story there with new wind slabs and even some buried layers that are not stabilizing.

Photos & Video
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