Issued 10/10/16 by Zach Guy
If there is enough snow to ride, there is enough snow to slide. Although avalanche concerns are generally smaller and more isolated during the early fall, the consequences of getting dragged over rocks and stumps can be severe. This close call on Mt. Owen and near miss on Mt. Baldy exemplify avalanche concerns during the fall.
This time of year, you are most likely to encounter unstable snow in the highest, alpine terrain. Windloaded bowls and gullies can act as catcher’s mitts for drifting snow, forming slabs that are large enough to knock you off your feet or take you for a ride. Be cautious and consider the terrain consequences if you encounter wind drifted or slabby snow in couloirs, below ridgelines, or below fresh cornices.
The first surviving snowfall of the season typically forms rotten or crusty snow, and acts as a weak layer for future slabs. As the snowpack develops, windloaded slopes and bowls can develop larger, more continuous persistent slabs, that can propagate unusually wide distances. Often times the slopes that are most attractive to skiing or riding this time of year hold the most problematic snowpack, especially on high elevation, shaded aspects. Monitor the changing structure of the snow in your travels, and be wary of slabby snow over facets or sugary snow.
Loose Wet Avalanches
The temperatures and solar radiation can still be quite warm in October or November. Fresh snow tends to sluff off of steep terrain when the sun comes out and temperatures warm, causing wet or dry point release avalanches. Keep an eye out for rollerballs, pinwheels, or other loose snow avalanches to clue you into to changing conditions.
The CBAC will continue to monitor the snowpack and post updates to our website and our facebook page as the snowpack develops this fall. Daily avalanche advisories will begin mid-November.