The avalanche danger is currently rated as LOW in the terrain adjacent to the Whistler-Blackcomb ski areas.
Unseasonably warm temperatures on Dec. 18, followed by rapid cooling, have formed yet another crust that is in evidence at least to 2,200 metres. The crust is overlain by variable pockets of loose snow up to 10 cm in depth. Much terrain, however, remains scoured down to the crust. A strong temperature gradient in the upper snowpack is promoting the faceting process, and you will find loose, sugar-like grains both above and below the crust. Surface hoar, as well, has been added into the above crust mix.
Predicting future avalanching could become a challenge given the variable distribution of the loose surface snow in some areas the fresh snow will be landing on the crust while in others it will land on a mixture of facetted grains and surface hoar. In any terrain where the coverage is still shallow, the snowpack is particularly weak and should be monitored as the overlying load intensifies.
The longer-range forecast models are predicting a mix of sun and cloud and warm upper level temperatures for Thursday and Friday. The good news is that Christmas Day could bring some snowfall at lowering freezing levels, followed by a brief return to ridging conditions. If the models pan out we can expect a significant system Tuesday or Wednesday of the following week.
Travel cautiously if you decide to venture into the backcountry. There are still many lurking hazards out there the most significant one being the smooth icy surface that would make recovering from a fall on steep terrain next to impossible. Call 604-938-7676 for daily updated avalanche bulletins or contact the ski patrol on either mountain for the most current information.