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Backcountry Advisory

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As of Wednesday, April 18

Frontal waves from April 16 to 18 deposited approximately 35-40 cm of new snow on the local mountains. At a time when many of our thoughts are directed more towards the state of the mountain bike trails, the snowpack continues to increase. It is very unusual to see the winter’s highest base being recorded so late in the season.

Explosive and ski testing carried out on the mountains immediately following the storms produced easy results. At this time of year however, new snow instabilities do not linger. We’ve all seen the effect that a brief glare of sunshine will have on the snow, turning it from fluff to mush before you can get back for a second run. A bit of overnight clearing and then the inevitable crust. North aspects may remain unscathed by the melt-freeze cycle, although they too will deteriorate on those "greenhouse" days when a high, bright overcast holds the heat in and turns all surfaces moist.

As this week’s storm snow goes through its transformation, it will become quickly reactive again during the initial melt phase, particularly if it is overlying an old hard surface. Once a crust has been established, the melt phase will be attained more slowly. Plan your day accordingly. Remember that once caught in even a small "river" of moist snow, you may have no control over your direction of travel.

As the spring season progresses, crusts will continue to be a predominant feature in the snowpack and on the surface. They may provide a good sliding plane for any subsequent new snowfall. Conversely, new snow falling on a moist surface will likely form a good bond. It is a challenging time of year to attempt to predict snow conditions in the mountains. Try it! Gather the daily weather data, put together your prediction, and then go up and see how well you do.

The long-range forecast is calling for a gradual drying and warming trend through the week. Travel with caution if you choose to head out into the mountains.

As of April 18, the backcountry avalanche danger is rated as CONSIDERABLE. Given the forecast, this should decrease by the end of the week. Daytime warming and sun effect will, however, cause fluctuations in the snow stability. Check for the most current conditions before you head out.

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