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Old 02-17-2012, 12:41 AM   #11 (permalink)
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Yeah dude^^^, shit is spooky this year to say the least.

We may never see certain places INBOUNDS open up at Loveland this year, areas that are normally open by now.

Vibes.
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Old 02-17-2012, 12:48 AM   #12 (permalink)
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We'll see what happens, but yeah, it wouldn't surprise me if a good bit of The Ridge didn't open this year.
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Old 02-17-2012, 11:14 AM   #13 (permalink)
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Think of facets are more angular grains, not rounded. Rounding grains actually strengthens the snow pack. They pack tightly and form strong cohesive bonds. Facets grow and become very angular. At the bottom of the snow pack they are absolutely huge. Sugar snow. Very little to no cohesion.

Remember the big October storms we got that got everyone doing the happy dance? Well it's that storm that is now keeping the ski areas from opening their best terrain and has become the major problem in the backcountry. We got that snow and like clock work it sat there for weeks without new snow. Facets grew and it become very weak. Then the snow started in earnest and that shallow layer became a non supportable layer that is over a foot thick. Just to add to the problem, at some point, we got a storm or two in late November/early December, I forget. It laid down 5-10 inches. Then it didn't snow again for a while. It evidently came in warm, because at the interface with the ground facets to the newer snow there is a melt/freeze layer. Very thin, less than an inch in most spots. Very brittle. Add to just on top of it, is a near surface faceted layer. It's less than a quarter inch, but that layer is a killer. So you've got a thin hard but brittle slab sandwiched between two weak layers.

I observed a lot of this on Vail Pass yesterday. At the slope we usually start with there was a fracture line from a slide there earlier this week. It slid on top of that brittle ice layer, but did not step down and take out the ground facets. Awesome. I did an ECT on what was left, got a full propagation at the second strike from my elbow. I'm calling it a Quality 2 shear, but some might call it a Q1. If there is a Q 1.5 that is what I'd call it. Either way it was a huge red flag, and we stayed well away from that aspect and the cliff line. We chose more broken terrain with wide open run outs to slide out on should it slide. Having stuff to bang into like trees is not a good thing. Something to be super mindful of this season. What is below you. I believe a lot of those zones, the slides are not big enough to bury you completely. The problem is the terrain you are getting carried into, is enough to beat you to death, or the terrain has a feature that facilitates you getting buried deeply. We've seen this a few times already this season. Many of the deaths have been from trauma. The sidecountry skier outside of Snowmass triggered a very small slide. A slide that you'd normally just walk away from, without needing to be rescued. The problem was that the bottom of the path ended in a v shaped gully that facilitated him getting fully buried. A terrain trap. You can look at the report and pictures here. You can see that the slide was barely 30 feet tall and not much wider than that. The terrain choice is what killed him here.

The Wolf Creek area is a bit different. Generally speaking the snow pack down there is in pretty good shape. They do have several layers of surface hoar that is now buried. Creating some problems. In well treed zones and a lot of zones, it's perfectly fine to be playing around. 40 degree widely spaced trees in Gibbs creek is not that area. I have no idea why one would think that was a good zone to play in. I know from riding with locals on the pass that Gibbs creek was a zone that they wouldn't even consider riding until stability was decent on the pass. At least moderate all the way around, and usually some low avalanche danger at certain zones and aspects. Not an area you want to mess with when considerable is the overall danger rating. I think the desire to ski "rad" terrain, and the lack of it even in bounds is helping people make some irrational choices. Plus the factor that backcountry riding is now the kewl thing to do is getting people out there who do not understand or chose to ignore the warning signs. The report is also that he was a ski patroller at Keystone. Even the most experienced can make critical mistakes. It's a bummer, because there is plenty to do at Wolf Creek pass that is safe, but offers very steep, although short shots, that are very low consequence if they should slide. Why he chose such a high consequence area, I do not know.

RIP.
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Old 02-17-2012, 11:50 AM   #14 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cjcameron11 View Post
can someone tell me why CO snowpack is generally weaker than say a PNW snowpack?
Quote:
Originally Posted by killclimbz View Post
Think of facets are more angular grains, not rounded. Rounding grains actually strengthens the snow pack. They pack tightly and form strong cohesive bonds. Facets grow and become very angular. At the bottom of the snow pack they are absolutely huge. Sugar snow. Very little to no cohesion.

Remember the big October storms we got that got everyone doing the happy dance? Well it's that storm that is now keeping the ski areas from opening their best terrain and has become the major problem in the backcountry. We got that snow and like clock work it sat there for weeks without new snow. Facets grew and it become very weak. Then the snow started in earnest and that shallow layer became a non supportable layer that is over a foot thick. Just to add to the problem, at some point, we got a storm or two in late November/early December, I forget. It laid down 5-10 inches. Then it didn't snow again for a while. It evidently came in warm, because at the interface with the ground facets to the newer snow there is a melt/freeze layer. Very thin, less than an inch in most spots. Very brittle. Add to just on top of it, is a near surface faceted layer. It's less than a quarter inch, but that layer is a killer. So you've got a thin hard but brittle slab sandwiched between two weak layers.



RIP.
just to hopefully simplify a little: when new snow sits for a while in cold, clear weather the structure of the snow changes from pretty flakes that we all know and love to rounded or faceted.

this is a real problem in CO because it actually stays cold enough once the winter starts to produce this layer, and as long as it isn't snowing it should usually still be cold enough to cause it.

in the PNW we can also get a snowfall followed be a week or weeks of cold, clear weather. a big difference is that we typically get storms that start off with an extreme low front (warm and wet coming off of the ocean) so even if the storm ends up at 18 or 20 degrees, it probably started closer to 28 or so. it will also frequently get 32 degrees or higher in the mountains at periods throughout the winter and these melt-freeze cycles will consolidate the snowpack.
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Old 02-17-2012, 11:59 AM   #15 (permalink)
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Thanks shred, I did neglect to mention the consistently cold temps.

You also tend have a deeper and more insulating snow pack than what we have around here.
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Old 02-17-2012, 12:07 PM   #16 (permalink)
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right, so i didn't talk at all about temperature gradients in snowpack because i didn't want to spout too much or go over anyone's head - but the difference in the temperature throughout the snowpack is a critical element.

anyone intending to get into the BC needs to read Bruce Tremper's book - at least twice. there is way more information then we can effectively talk about on an internet board, and you can be sure that it is explained better than i can - since i am just paraphrasing him anyways
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Old 02-17-2012, 12:18 PM   #17 (permalink)
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Keep it simple. I am all for it. I know I went on at length in my post. I am assuming some level of knowledge from the people participating in this discussion. For those who this goes way over your head. Reading Bruce Tremper's book, Staying Alive in Avalanche terrain is a great read and for around $20. Much cheaper than taking a level I avy course. It's a good read for those of you who are just getting interested in backcountry riding, but are not ready to take the plunge yet.
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Old 02-17-2012, 12:26 PM   #18 (permalink)
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i'd say if you read that book 2-3 times, understand what you are reading, and then go out onto snow and dig pits and recognize what you see and can make some evaluation - then you pretty much HAVE taken a level 1 class....







still take a class, and remember that you are now far more dangerous than when you knew nothing and were to scared to go out there. you now think you know what you are doing, but you will do far stupider shit with your false sense of confidence.
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Old 02-17-2012, 01:34 PM   #19 (permalink)
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Yeah, if you are getting into it, you MUST take a level I at some point. The nice thing is, if you've read Tremper's book (which covers more than a Level I course), you'll be way ahead of the class when taking the course. I had read it before taking my Level I and I was way ahead of everyone else in the class. So much so, I was able to pull my instructors aside and look at more advanced stuff, because I had already picked up on the basics they were teaching.
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Old 02-17-2012, 02:33 PM   #20 (permalink)
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The guy that died down at WC pass was a kiwi that was here working as a ski patroller at keystone.
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