Observation: Turnagain

Location: Sunburst weather station

Route & General Observations

We took advantage of the clear weather to get up to the Sunburst weather station to get it running again. We were surprised at the overall lack of crusts on the surface above around 1800′. We also noticed a fresh layer of surface hoar on top that we will most likely see causing avalanches if the approaching storm verifies. Our main goal was to get the weather station back so we didn’t spend really any time hunting the older surface hoar layers. We did see several large crowns in the higher terrain near Kickstep and Pastoral, which looked to be a few days old but likely failed on one of those two BSH layers. We had some time to spare when we got done at the weather station so we dug a pit just off the top of the ridgeline (SW aspect, 3800′), and could not find either layer. This was most likely because we were right off the top of the ridge, so it would have seen some strong winds before it got buried. With all of the nearby avalanche activity in the past 3 days, I would guess we would have found a problematic layer if we had spent more time digging pits today and less time juggling batteries.

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)?No
Cracking (Shooting cracks)?Yes
Observer Comments

We saw two large crowns on Kickstep (NW and SW aspects, 4200') and just north of Pastoral (N aspect, 4000'). We also saw some big loose snow avalanche debris piles on almost every aspect, some skier-triggered and some natural.

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

Not a cloud to be found out there today. Temps stayed cool, and the snow surface was dry when we headed back to town at 4:30. There was a light SE wind while we were on the ridge.

Snow surface

1-3mm surface hoar everywhere, trending towards larger grains with elevation. This was on all aspects from the parking lot to the ridge. The upper 2" or so of the new snow has started faceting out, even on the southerly aspects that had been heating up recently. This layer of near-surface facets sits on a crust up to 1600-1800' on west through south aspects. At the higher elevations, the upper 6-10" snow is still cold and dry, with facets and surface hoar on top. On the slopes that face due south, we could feel an older sun crust skiing down.


We only dug one hasty test pit that wasn't really in a great spot. We could not find either layer of buried surface hoar, but it is certainly out there. We did get propagating test results on an interface between two old wind slabs about 30" deep, but it took quite a bit of force. We took our time looking for surface hoar at that interface under the lens, but all we saw was a layer of decomposing stellars that had a few small facets mixed in.

Photos & Video
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