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backcountry advice 705

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It is pouring rain in the valley while I write this, and the wind is blowing hard in the alpine. This weather pattern is just getting rolling in our area, pushing relatively cool temperatures and a whole lot of sunny days out of its way. After we have finished praying that this weather pattern is a short lived one, many of us will head out because it can’t really be that bad, can it? As the precipitation continues, so does the loading over the old snow surface. The load will probably be a somewhat stiff wind-slab of varying depth. The old surface is once again a variable one, with low-density snow comprised of mostly large, well preserved new snow crystals in sheltered terrain and sun effected snow on solar exposures (especially south). Buried surface hoar and faceted crystals are mixed in around the wind-slabs that formed with the storm that preceded the recent sunshine and cool temperatures. Will this create a huge instability? It may, but as long as it is warm (and especially if it gets warmer) the new snow will be a concern regardless of what lies below it. I hate warm new snow instabilities, they are unpredictable, destructive and usually no fun to ski anyway. When the weather eases off what will the slab do? It’s hard to say. The wind could scour the buried weaknesses out of many start zones. The slabs may run during the storm, or they may not form at all. Although, this is the coast, the freezing level is rising, and the wind is blowing so the odds are in favour of slab formation. The hazard rating on Tuesday, Feb. 1, 2000 is HIGH. By the time you read this what will it be? Check with the ski patrol, check the Canadian Avalanche Association public avalanche bulletin or try 938-7676. The hazard changes all the time, like the weather. At least it’s snowing, imagine if it didn’t.

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