As of Wednesday, Jan. 8
Mother Nature decided this year to hammer the holiday season recreators with a full array of west coast storms. The cycle ended on Jan. 4 with a warm front that brought rain to as high as 1,800m. Temperatures then cooled enough to form a solid melt-freeze crust which has effectively deterred all but the most hardy skiers and boarders from venturing below treeline. Although this crust has made conditions challenging, it has also bridged over the reactive weak layers in the snow pack that were causing so much concern in our area. In the alpine terrain where the crust is either very weak or didnt form at all, the storm snow was well plastered on by the strong winds. Explosive testing carried out on Jan. 5 on Whistler Mountain produced two isolated size 1.5 hard slabs that ran on a layer of graupel sandwiched within the storm snow. For the most part however, the snow was not reactive. With the forecast warm temperatures, the storm snow should continue to settle and to stiffen throughout the week, although steep solar aspects may produce some surface instabilities.
The most recent storm cycle was ideal for cornice growth. The newly formed tabs are in spots very large and very fragile. Keep in mind that a cornice fall could overstress the underlying slope and perhaps trigger an unexpected release.
Travel with caution and allow yourself a little extra time if your route home takes you below treeline into the rain crust zone.
The backcountry avalanche danger is currently rated as MODERATE. To check for the most current conditions before you head out contact the Whistler-Blackcomb advisory at 604-938-7676 or the CAA bulletin at 1-800-667-1105.