It’s Christmas madness here in the valley. As I sit writing this, a visiting family is playing in the snow drifts below my second story window. Two kids are grabbing chunks of large icicles that have fallen from my roof and rollIng around the snow. Another kid, along with the Dad, are chucking snowballs at the remaining six foot skewers as the two others play underneath. They are oblivious to the Darwin award they are about to win. Ah yes, Christmas. There’s a metaphor here somewhere for EV travelers.
Had a chance to get out to to Tfalls on Saturday and dig a pit on a 35 degree NE facing slope by the entrance to the chute. Found very shallow conditions 80 cms, defined by two major layers. Settling denser storm snow on top of the typical Colorado basal facet layer, with two buried surface hoar layers in between. The loose facets underneath the recent storm snow have the stability of table salt. Two column tests were CT 15 and CT 17 with a Q2 shear on both. Hard to really qualify the shear as it was more of a crumble than anything else. Reports of lower pockets in trees pulling out in Racquette Club and Bighorn chutes as the basal facets give way under the weight of riders, especially lower down where the snowpack gets extremely shallow. Definitely calming down avalanche wise later in the week as the couple feet has time to settle. The snowpack isn’t nearly as reactive as earlier in the week, but lurking wind slabs and shallow spots by rocks and trees still provide areas of concern for trigger points especially N through E aspects.
Also noticed surface hoar formation, two to three millimeter as Saturday was humid calm and warmer. Sunday was colder and a few inches of new covered the surface hoar. Something to watch with more snow in the forecast.
The big news of course is the EV avalanche video that has gone viral and made it to CNN. Lucky for them the snowpack was shallow, later in the season it would of been a full burial. Interesting enough, Adam and I skied left Abe’s first thing that morning in the middle of the storm cycle, skiers right of the slidepath and had minor movement in the main choke.
Really nothing out of the ordinary for EV as far as the snowpack and early season avi cycles, the change is that technology is now allowing everyone to witness the game that is played out there, good or bad.
Sunday afternoon was a nice break from the busy opening week of EV. Bluebird, sparkling snow and noone out in the zone. A chance to take a breath, enjoy a solo lap in the forgotten trees and get ready for the reset and the interesting stories it will bring. Say tuned.
Driven out of Vail like the mighty lynx out of Cat 3 , I, Martineast found myself on the road in search of new terrain. The factors had come down from the universe and it was time to go. Really the death of the Visti Bahn was too much to bear. For me, that signaled an end of an era in Vail history and for me personally, my stint in Vail. That’s right, EV won’t have Martineast to kick around anymore. I look forward to the first report of conditions, I expect another touchy year with the early snowpack resembling last years’ junk underneath, but I can’t tell you for sure.
Wyoming, Utah, Idaho. Drove through all of these and had the urge to keep going. Washington. Pac-NW it is. Mt. Baker sounds good, why not? World record snowfall, middle of the Northern Cascades. No Condos, 125 dollar tickets or fur stores. A sick little resort resort tucked away from the world high in the Northern Cascades. Bellingham, the closest real town, is 50 miles away.
Different from Vail? About as radically different as you can get. Land of moss, weed, wool and hanging seracs. Volcanoes, ice, crevasses, glaciers. At the end of WA-542, Mt. Baker sits below Mt. Shuksan, an imposing Cascade wedge with a massive serac hanging from it. A couple day lots, couple of base areas and that’s it. Possibilities for backcountry around Baker. Endless. When you can see, that is, as weather is a constant off the ocean. Literally, the end of the road. Next stop B.C.
It’s been a long time since anything inbounds has required a second look to ski. I’ve been lulled into complacency by our wonderfully groomed golf course. Baker, however, has it all over. Better bring your A-game. Steep slots and trees runs, roll overs exceeding any point of repose in Colorado. Covered ice, rime spines, snow ghosts. Sidecountry that dwarfs the resort. Bottom line, if planet Hoth had a ski area it would be Baker.
Spent time out the gate my first afternoon to check out the snowpack. Dug my pit on a North facing 28 degree angle slope just above the gate, right off the skin track. Snow total, 305 cm depth on December 13. T his was before the current four foot snow cycle that has since closed the road. Results on my two columns dug to 160cms: CT-build a house out of it. Incredulous at the results of my first attempt at column failure, I recut and dug the second with the same result. It took all my weight and pulling on the second column as well to get a Q2 shear at 130 cms, way off any scale. Cascade snow pack is for real. I’m sure things have changed of late, our latest cycle has come with big wind, so we’ll see the impact of that. (63 inches in 4days, 100 plus trees down on the road up. Resort, I mean ski area, is closed for three days to clean up and dig out, truly a wild place on earth.)
Learning a new area isn’t overnight. I have no comfort level with the backcountry terrain here. My initial day had good vis and what I could see just on an EV length jaunt outside the area was vast and varied. Trees and spines, convex rolls and chutes endless are calling. In due time. It was good just to get my hands in snow and get a general idea of local conditions.
Here to relearn it all. I guess that’s the reason for the move. Look forward to the posts from Vail, Luke in Jackson, Me in Baker. EVI worldwide. Note: we plan on being in AK again if the snow shapes up, so stay tuned…
Took a drive tour over Loveland Pass coming back home from the front range yesterday. Stopped to hike the dog up the eastside ridge at the summit of Loveland pass. Stomping through freshness layered in among the scree it was great to get smacked in the head with 0 degree, 30 mph winds under a cobalt grey sky.Stood into the wind and took a breath of the cold. The jet stream was whipping clouds overhead, obscuring the tops of the highest peaks off the Divide, blasting eastward. Snow was falling and the wind was transporting it in great swirls on the open faces of the pass, steadily erasing whats left poking through the snow. Off in the distance, A-Basin looked better than it did all of last year, lifts churning on a busy Saturday, snow in the tress .There were even a few intrepid souls braving seriously early season conditions on the West side of the pass, skiing down to the lower switchbacks . Looked to be about 8 inches of fresh on top of a 60 mile deep granite base. Admire the love, a little early for myself. Drove over a mitten in A-Basin”s cross walk. coming down the pass. No hand in it. Ahh winter. It’s back.. At least above 11,000 feet.
Back in our world, EV is covered in its first layer of the white stuff. I drove back over Vail pass looking the notorious layer that is the foundation for our snowpack. Usually for us in Colorado this becomes a loosely faceted layer that sets the stage for an avalanche cycle in mid to late November in EV and can dog us for the entire season, depending. Last season Old Man’s early season was perfect example, sliding to the ground in November.
This first snow set the stage for the crown jewel of a garbage Continental snowpack in 2011/2012. Early October snow with a long long period of clear, warm weather created 2-4 mm very loose facets out of the first snow. Surface hoar also reared its’ ugly head. When we finally did get some snow, it came with wind and the results….well you remember. The snow pack never recovered.
Our best hope is continued snow without a third Indian summer before the larger snow load arrives. As bad as last year was ,two years ago was the textbook for a decent snowpack. fo us. Snow, snow and more snow, consistent temps and little wind. “Average” year ? I’d take it.
Every year is different and fascinating in our world, , not only because of the endless variables that affect our snow, but the endlessly variable human element as well. You can’t make the stuff up that happens out in EV. Keeps me coming back and I can’t wait to tell the tale this year. See you soon at the bus stop. EVI.
Bluebird weekend with the Snowball festival. EV saw big numbers. 140 by two o’clock yesterday, 90 by noon today. Top of the World today reveals tracks everywhere. Temperatures rising again over 30 degrees.
Saw JD the Poma. He mentioned that he has seen plenty of large groups yesterday teeing it up everywhere. Tracks in the middle of west wall with no slide activity. Tweeners was stomped and Abe’s as well, confirming JD’s story. Met up with Law at the top by chance, grouped up with MFD and Atomic Mid Fat. Followed them down to Old Man’s. Cornice had risen dramatically with the wind arriving with the clearing storm.
Waited and watched the first two try to attack the cornice with a rope. Without the proper weight in the middle of the rope the rope cut nothing but plate sized chunks of snow while exposing them both to the edge of the overhang. They inched their way off the Old Man’s entrance with every rope toss and ended up over King Tut’s still trying to lasso a part of the cornice. I waited with Law above and watched. Good to leave a person in a safe area if you decide to tackle a cornice. I learned that lesson after my turn at cornice stomping left me with a ski in midair. A pole from Law behind me helped me back up to solid ground.
Skied lower down above the entrance proper as the calf roping continued. I asked them to back off a second. I probed the edge of the new cornice section at the entrance with my pole and gave a few good stomps. A sizable chunk of the newly formed section of cornice dropped and impacted the crown area of last weeks slide, the old bed surface in the middle of Old Mans almost completely filled in with the recent new snow. The chunks exploded on the scarp and ran through the frying pan. No step down, the new snow in the middle of the bowl held tough. Even with three hundred tracks in EV the last couple days, the rest of Old Mans was a blank canvas.
Dropped the entrance, skirted the debris and skied a surprisingly good Olds tree chute far right. Exited through lower trees where the snow was rapidly warming.
Headed out into the moonscape of the scoured world. Wind event 2012 is in full swing and EV is not immune. One look at the Gore Range says it all. Mountains bathed in white a few days ago are stripped bare, the precious contents transferred to Nebraska. Flagging on the peaks yesterday was huge, clouds of snow pluming off anything above 10000 feet. Really a sense of deja vu, the Poma hike scoured, the anti-tracks of travelers past sticking out in relief, exposed by the winds. It reminded me of early December conditions. DPS and I headed out just to see what the results of the wind, not expecting any phenomenal skiing. There has really been no periods of consistency with weather or snow this year and everyday seems to bring something new.
Not much traffic, no surprise there. Top of the World really wasn’t that bad wind wise, the worst of the event is hopefully over. Snow conditions were variable, meaning I skied seven different kinds of snow during our Tweeners run. Rock hard scarp gave way to thin window pane like wind slab. Old pow in the trees, old pow with a cracker crust in any sun hit lowers out of the wind. East facing sun crust of different variations. It was a snow condition buffet, and I had my plate full. I survival skied the run, but enjoyed it nonetheless. Hanging out with DPS on the ridge, looking around and shooting the shit is always a good time.
The run out to the water tank was the capper. The wind had brought down smaller limbs and pine cones and scattered them like confetti on the run-out. Flying through the luge on a mostly brown carpet with the crunching of the pine cones under the skis capped a strange, otherworldly run in a otherworldly year.
On the ridge we watched Benchie and Old Mans reloading, the plumes of snow cartwheeling into the scarps. The crown in Olds is still visible. The fracture profile looks pretty similar to the slide I set off with the ski cut heard round the world early in the year. Strip on the right side of Old Mans is holding tough.
I’ve chosen a couple of strip runs next to old slide paths this year. These strips of snow have provided good skiing, while mitigating the danger with the old slide path interrupting the open faces. Pow strips have provided this year when we couldn’t step out into the open faces we wanted to ski. Can’t ever remember choosing runs in EV this way during any other year.
East faces are crusted from sun and warm temps. Upper north aspects are cross-loaded or slid out. Lower protected trees are the best skiing at the moment, out of the sun and wind.
Bottom line in EV, we need the reset button pushed in a bad way.
It’s been a New York state of mind weekend, if you know what I mean. Took the lead from Deuce and started my lap today with a stop at the beacon park to work on multiple burials. That little SP button is a world of its own and finally after a few practice sessions, I feel solid about using it, although a mark function would be useful.
The procession down the groomed section of Poppyfields to 21 from Two Elk was endless. Our fearless guests ski like they drive, work and live in their home towns, all together, right next to each other, up in each other’s business. I made it through the human slalom, up and out and head back for a Mushroom Bowl revisit.
Wanted to dig a pit in Mushie, albeit far away from the Kitchen, to see what was going on. The tally is now four burials past the gate at the Poma this week as told by the new signs up at the hike. A viable option for EV access might be to install a beacon triggered access gate like ones used around in other resorts in the West, just a thought.
The recent avalanche statistics are sobering, not only for East Vail and Mushie, but for the rest of the state as well. as fatalities and incidents are spiking as new storms roll through, dumping new snow on top of facet world. With another system rolling up on us, the avalanche activity doesn’t seem to be coming to and end anytime soon. Interesting week ahead.
Headed even further up the line than yesterday, as I was solo and not willing to even come close to a unskied tree chute over 30 degrees. Greybird and snow starting to fall, I found a cool low angle stumpline to bound around on. Sunk the tips on the last pillow before the small shelf and a did a spectacular ground flip, stopping on my tails. Looked over to my right and saw my huckleberry, a small unskied patch of snow, surrounded by trees.
Here’s what I saw.
Air temp: 3 C
Surface temp: 3 C
Incline: 25 degrees
0 to 65 cms: 3mm loose facets fist – Depth Hoar
75 to 85 cms: 1 mm rounds 4finger/fist- Old Storm Snow
85 to 95 2 mm stellars fist – New Snow
Cut two columns and did two CT tests.
First column: CT-14 at 35 cms Q1
Second column: CT-12 at 25 cms Q1
No real suprise, but confirmation that with added steepness, snow load and the pressure of a 180 pound person impacting this snow pack off a twenty foot cliff (one incident in the Kitchen area went down this way), there is no way the snow could support it.
The real question is why, after one or two incidents in the same area, people still continue to ski in the same exact spot. A question for forensic psychologists, not EVI.
Last day in Mushroom, back out to EV tommorow to check it out.
EVI note: Info is still coming in from yesterday, so the post has changed some, trying hard to report all objective info, sorry for any confusion and thanks to those helping us clarify the events.
Bluebird powder day in EV. Overnight storm loaded up the zone with a significant amount of snow, variable amounts, knee-deep and above in certain places. BID(Blown in Deep) is the technical term. Headed off the grid for the first run with Luke and stayed clear of the procession headed up to Benchie. A ton of hungry pow hounds were out early and the carnival was on.
Came back around to the top for our second run to see how the combination of the rapidly warming deep fresh snow and the mass of skiers interacted. They didn’t play well together. West Wall slid, skier triggered from the skier’s right side almost wall to wall , below the first set of small rocks that line the top. Had a friend see it go down. A skier skiing a ribbon of blower powder before a large avalanche followed him down, a sympathetic release from a small slab the skier kicked off during his run. I can’t make this stuff up. New warming snow interface on the crust that happens in the West Wall with the east facing sun hit and warm temps probably was the culprit. Find out tommorow.
Tracks in left side of Benchmark, but debris running past the first flats from the gully left of Mushroom Rock. Another sign of skier triggered instability.
Tele Line had tracks but no activity that I could see.
The capper was Old Man’s. Looked over the edge of the entrance to see a track leading into the each of the first two gullies left of the tree line. Below, a significant debris pile ran beneath them into the flats and no obvious tracks out. Shit.
Headed down right ridgeline and found where we could safely enter and do a search of a majority of the lower debris pile. Probably happened first thing in the morning, but wanted to make sure we didn’t leave someone out there before we headed out. Cleared the debris with Luke and thankfully found no signals. Then we got the hell out of there.
The crown was deepest on the skier’s left side of the second rollover gully by the small cliff, three to four feet of soft slab. It extended into the middle of the bowl. CDC had a small slab release of its’ own under the cliff band.
As far as I know nobody was hurt today, but the potential was there. Here’s what we saw.
What better a day to grab that powder loving guy or gal and take them out to EV to get the love juices flowing? The overcast to broken skies with S-1 light snowfall and blending from light to calm winds ((L) 1-16 mph) didn’t deter the most discerning of inamorata/inamorato from blazing up the skin track to the top of Benchie and dropping in to profess their passion for the goods with some fine pow turns and periodic wails of pleasure and ecstasy. On the “Danger Rose” (oooh that’s sexy) one could profess that the “dangerous love” was at least considerable on the NW-S facing aspects… Those not blinded by the considerable chance at some likely “rough lovin” could get their moderately risky business done on the W & SW facing slopes. Tracks abound and no shame (recent debaucherous activity) in sight… the powder lovers were painting their affection all over the big white fluffy canvass with big S-Turns abound. Only a few dysfunctional examples of tracks seen hitting the top drops off Old Man’s, traversing skier left over the first cliffs in Old’s then directly over to the northern cliffs two-thirds the way down the open +35 degree avg. aspect, the prominent CDC cliff band. Not sure that relationship is really going to last, but one could conjecture that love makes some behave in some very incredibly peculiar ways.
Linked up with Marty, the legendary wing-man himself, to not only get our powder fix of the day, but to also put a cross hair on our beloved snowpack and shoot it straight in the heart. We sought to identify a deadly problem that has been plaguing some unfortunate riders recently. We’ve all seen the recent reports of the very gruesome reciprocation that the star-crossed snowpack has taken out on members of the BC riding community. The trend of doom has been below treeline in some very precarious terrain traps and that is where some more careful examination is due. From the “hasty” and not so hasty test pits of the season, it’s about lovin time we drop some SWAG on this very problem. Freshly and stalely outfitted with the latest in snow-nerd standards, we figured it’s about time to throw down and get neck deep in the business. What is the problem that we are dealing with? In short, deep persistent weak layers releasing the majority of the top of the snow pack on an interface between the buried depth hoar and the upper “cake” layer of the good stuff. So let the intricate romance with our naughty snowpack begin… (this would be way more bad-ass with snowpilot, but whatever).
2/14/2012 @ 2:30pm on Forgotten Trees with an elev. 10,200-10,400 (estimated from topo).
Small clearing in trees on N-facing Aspect below treeline of 30 degrees.
Sky: Fluctuating from broken to overcast. Wind: Calm to Light. Temp Air: -6.5 deg C. Precip: Very Light (S-1).
Boot Pen: Balls Deep, Yeah, that’s what she said… Type: Profile Pit. Temp Surface @ 150cm: -6.5 deg. C
No Red Flags besides the low-moderate obvious wind loading of leeward aspects.
<150 DF’s (decomp & frag. precip particles) 1.5mm F+ -6.5 deg. C
140 DF’s (decomposing & frag. precip part.) 1.5mm F+ -6.0 deg. C
130 DF’s (decomposing & frag. precip part.) 1.5mm F -6.0 deg. C
120 FCsf (near surface faceted particles) 1-2mm F -5.5 deg. C
110 FCxr (Rounding Faceted Particles) 1.0mm F -5.0 deg. C
100 RG’s (Rounded Grains) 0.5-1.0mm F -4.5 deg. C
90 RG’s (Rounded Grains) 1.0mm <95cm 4F -4.0 deg. C
80 RG’s (Rounded Grains) 1.0mm 4F -3.5 deg. C
70 RG’s (Rounded Grains) 1.0mm 4F -3.0 deg. C
60 DH (Depth Hoar) 3.0mm <60cm F+ -2.5 deg. C
50 DH (Depth Hoar) 3.0mm F+ -2.0 deg. C
40 DH (Depth Hoar) 3.0mm F+ -2.0 deg. C
30 DH (Depth Hoar) 3.0mm F+ -1.5 deg. C
20 DH (Depth Hoar) 3.0mm F+ -1.0 deg. C
10 DH (Depth Hoar) 3.0mm F+ -1.0 deg. C
Did a very nice ECT (Extended Column Test) 30cm deep X 90cm wide X to 120cm deep from surface, back cut out.
Results yielded: ECT23Q3(PC)… the whole 150cm down to 60cm collapsed on the interface (if you can remember the December surface hoar produced by endless clear days and cold clear nights) ~60-63cm is where the ECT collapsed but did not shear. This indicated a collapse and even propagation, but no sudden planar or resistant planar shear @ 30 deg. So that would put us at ECTP23. Read from that what you will… in leymans’ that’s a deep persistent weak layer that will propagate distances, collapse and cause instability in the snowpack, hence, most aspects on the CAIC Rose being rated as considerable. Watch out for higher angle slopes that will cause the upper layer to collapse as well as shear and slide.
That’s all the snow-geek and SWAGger I got for ya! hopefully you were suave and savvy enough to get your significant other’s adrenaline and love potion pumping with you’re superior shredability out in EV today. If you didn’t here’s some snow porn to help you thru tomorrow… but remember, never trust a hoar, no matter how deep you bury it (Whammy!).
Crazy swings in temperature last few days. 13 below to 40 above in a couple of days with a rain snow mix yesterday in town. Switched to snow to the valley floor sometime Thursday night and woke to two inches on my deck with warm temperatures again.
Went with my buddy Paulie out to Tele Line where we had skied the last storms’ snow on supportable crust, bypassing anything steep(30+ degrees)and north facing again. The constant weather factor for the last few days has been the jet stream wind, up again and howling on the ridges out of the northwest. Same deal today as the next front intensified around 12:30 and started dumping a heavy wet, Pac-Northwest style snow. Nice storm skin as the only two other travelers were ahead of us and disappeared into the white out above the poma.
Hitting the point, the winds were calm again as on Wednesday, and the east-facing run was slathered in twenty cms of dense new snow up top. Did a quick hasty pit, similar shallow pack as Wednesday with the new snow supported by the crust underneath. I went first, skiied through the initial rock pillows and ditched it the trees early and waited for Paulie. No activity. Paulie dropped and met me in a cluster of dense old growth. The upper section skied well and the dense snow was nice supportive powder turns of the year. Bliss.
As we entered the middle section, things changed dramatically. We leapfrogged down to the traverse out, staying next to the ridgeline. Paulie let me know he was triggering whoomphing and propagating cracks in areas that I had skied. The thirty pound differential between us was enough to make the difference and allow him to punch through the saturated crust and trigger failure. We regrouped and went farther into the old stands. Entering lower elevations and into the rain/snow mix layer from the night before, the dense new snow wasn’t adhering to the increasingly saturated melt freeze crust. Bottom line the lower we got, the higher the avalanche danger became. We were able to traverse out in cracking boot top on ground dense snow to the aspens. If we get the snow predicted on Saturday and the pack on the Benchie traverse out becomes deep enough to slide, the traverse out could be treatcherous.The aspens down low were extremely sensitive, and shooting cracks and small slab collapses were all over, even worse than the cracking on Wednesday. Again Paulie, being a beast, was triggering areas I didn’t all the way to the bus.
Snow Pack Discussion.
After Paulie triggered the whoomphing and cracking in the middle elevations of Tele Line, we staged at some trees and I crept out and dug a hasty pit. (Yep it’s a bona fide real pit with NO SAW, it actually has a place in the world of snow science.) On the go assessment. A lot going on in the 60cm snowpack. Bottom 20 cms, 3 mm loose facets. Next, a five mm melt-freeze crust, pencil hard. Following this, fifteen cms of smaller loose facets, 2 mm. On top of this, another four to five mm melt-freeze crust again, finger hard, increasingly saturated as elevations lowered. Topping the cake was the 20-25 dense wet snow in the spot I was at, a sheltered spot, east facing around the middle of the line. (the depth of new snow varied drastically in different aspects and elevations. We were on a eastern aspect, with a good view of north east.) All propagating fractures were easily Q1 shears, but didn’t run any distance.
Paulie was collapsing the crust from mid elevations down and the storm snow was running on the collapsed crust on loose facets below. Danger was even higher today, than it has been in the last few days, especially in lower elevations N-E aspects. Didn’t get to test any W aspects at any elevation recently, but I assume similar types of results. We saw evidence of slab releases in NE aspects at 9500 ft and below. Temps have cooled off since the storm moved through and have skies cleared. Hopefully this will lock up some of the moisture and settle things, but this is just spray(a new phrase I learned today).
Concerned about Saturday, weekend crowds and the lure of pow will have intrepid souls venturing back there in very high danger. Hope all goes well, please let us know if you are out and see anything. Be safe. EVI