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Backcountry Advisory


As of January 9, 2001

The underlying weakness in our snowpack is not disappearing in a hurry. With each successive storm cycle, it just becomes more difficult to predict which slope is going to rip out down to the layer of facets. This layer is now buried up to 300 cm. below the surface.

The upper snowpack has been following the usual coastal pattern. Lots of activity during and immediately after the storm, and then rapid stabilization. With the bizarre temperature fluctuations that we have been seeing at all elevations this year, the stabilization process has been occurring even more quickly. Unfortunately the "facet layer" variable keeps cropping up with each storm. Skies clear, one gets a good look around, and invariably there will be evidence of some slopes that have performed on this layer during the storm. Whistler and Blackcomb Mountains continue to see deep slab releases triggered by both explosives and skiers/boarders.

The slopes most prone to failing on the facet weakness are as usual, the steep rocky ones with a shallow snowpack. As the rocky terrain starts to get a little more coverage it becomes increasingly difficult to determine which slopes are the rocky ones and also where the weak trigger point might be on a seemingly "fat" slope. As the season goes on, the weakness will get safely bridged over in many areas. Other areas may never get shredded this winter.

If you don’t know what the terrain looks like in the summertime, or if you can’t be sure that avalanching has destroyed the facetted layer, it probably is not a good idea to jump into any high-risk slopes. It is impossible to know where every weak point on the slope may be. On Whistler Mountain this past week, a 1 kg. charge placed in a pocket of un- skied terrain triggered an avalanche that pulled out a moderately skier-compacted slope. The crown line maxed out at about 300cm.

Take it easy this season. Follow the mellow lines. You can take solace in the fact that no one else in B.C. is having a very "extreme" kind of winter.

Conditions may vary and can change rapidly. For more information, call the C.A.A. Public Bulletin at 1-800-667-1105, the Whistler/Blackcomb snow and information line at 938-7676, or contact your local Ski Patrol.