Welcome to our classic Colorado snowpack!
Even though natural avalanche activity has slowed, do not let your guard down. Across our forecast area, persistent slab structure is widespread, and carries very high consequences if triggered. Observers from Cement Creek, to the more popular backcountry areas such as Washington Gulch, the Slate River, and Kebler Pass have noted poor structure reactive in stability tests, and the trickle of large to very large natural avalanches continues on the eastern half of the compass above treeline. Signs of instability under foot and machine have decreased in areas with deeper snowpacks, but triggering even a small avalanche will carry serious consequences, as illustrated by several close calls within the last week involving skilled avalanche professionals (CBMR, Irwin)
Think back to Halloween, before your big night out on Elk, to the deep recesses of your memory bank. Think back to the meager snow cover that lingered on the shady northerly to easterly portions of your favorite slopes. That snow is now buried 2-6 feet deep, and is the culprit (along with a stiffening snowpack above) of our persistent slab problem.
Slopes which slid during our big Thanksgiving storm have continued to “reload.” Many of these slopes still hold facets near the ground and will be worth investigating the depth of new slab before committing to these features.
Another lingering concern is the potential for buried surface hoar which may have been buried within the last week. This is less of a concern now as it is only likely buried a few inches deep, but mapping its presence and distribution will grow in importance as we accumulate more snow.
Reported By: Ian Havlick