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Backcountry Advisory As of Wednesday, March 31 The most recent storm cycle deposited 55 cm. of new snow on the mountains. The snowfall was accompanied by moderate to strong winds from the E and SE. The storm fortunately ended with cooling temperatures and abating winds, leaving us with not only great conditions, but "right side up" powder that seemed to adhere well to the old snow layers. Explosive and ski testing carried out on the mountains produced only a few small surface slabs. New snow cornice chunks were the most significant results. The March 20 melt-freeze crust is now buried up to 100 cm. below the surface. Tests on this layer are showing only hard shears. Early in the week, however, we did see a Size 2 hard slab that ran down to this crust. It was triggered by a small cornice fall, and the crown line ranged from 20 to 100 cm. A subsequent fracture line profile done at the thick part of the slab showed no obvious reason for the failure — perhaps just a little reminder from Mother Nature. Any minor sun break is beginning to have a drastic effect on the surface snow. Be prepared for the upper layer to sluff if you are travelling on sun exposed slopes. It doesn’t take a large amount of moving, moist snow to throw you around. Take that into account when you choose your line — factor in a little room for error. Be particularly wary when you feel the "greenhouse" effect happening. The warming temperatures will not only heat up the snow surface, but will also make any buried weaknesses more prone to failing. The long-range weather models are somewhat in conflict this week. One is giving us mainly sunny weather into next week, while the other is forecasting a series of weak disturbances beginning on Friday. The only "for sure" is that spring is here on the calendar. As of March 31 the backcountry avalanche danger is rated as MODERATE. Conditions may change so check with your local ski patrol for the most current conditions or call 938-7676.

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