Avalanche Outlook for Martin Luther King, Jr. Day (1/20/14)
Issued 1/19/14 @ 9:30pm
If winds increase as forecast and again become strong, expect the avalanche danger to increase back to considerable for Monday. If winds don’t intensify as much as expected, or remain light to moderate in some areas as was the case Sunday, the avalanche danger will be moderate.
Recent intense winds have been predominantly from the SE and are expected to remain this way at higher elevations through Monday. Be on the lookout for some of the typical clues to wind slab problems: blowing snow, shooting cracks, areas of denser snow, fat or pillowy areas of snow that look loaded, etc.
The persistent slab problem is dwindling and such avalanches are becoming harder and less likely to be triggered, but don’t write this problem off yet – it still lurks. Expect it to be the most suspect and dangerous at mid to upper elevations. Wind loading will be the most likely stressor, besides human triggers, but if rain or above freezing temperatures manifest expect these to be additional stressors.
Monday: Partly cloudy with moderate to strong SE winds and isolated snow showers in the morning.
R.I.P. Dr. King. Thank you for changing America; it was greatly needed. Please help us continue the process!
I have a dream: that there will be skiing to be had to celebrate the life and love of one of America’s greatest Mahatmas
Sunday, January 19, 2014 – Observations – South Fork Eagle River
Obvious signs of instability:
- Numerous recent natural avalanches (from Friday-Saturday)
- Mild wind loading today (from SE winds – generally light but at times reaching the moderate threshold and with enough speed to transport snow)
- Mostly cloudy skies (some sunny breaks in the afternoon) with some very light snow for a short period of time late morning
- Temps in the 20s with a light SE breeze (some low-end moderate gusts in the upper elevations able to provide for mild snow transport)
- Widespread 3″ fresh, dry snow – no wind affect at lower elevations, mild wind affect mid to upper elevations
- Deeper deposits (1’+) of fresh snow leeward aspects and deposition/catchment areas mid to upper elevations, mildly wind affected but still soft and carve-able
- In the most wind exposed areas: ground, rocks, and crusts (melt-freeze and rain)
The South Fork area experienced a significant natural avalanche cycle Friday to Saturday with at least 14 slides visible from the road and while skiing in the Peak 1212 (North Bowl) area.
Here’s a map with red flags showing gullies (some host to multiple slides) that experienced natural avalanches – all in the D2 range and presumably wind slabs (the yellow symbol marks snowpit location – discussed later):
N-D2-R2 on South Fork trailhead side of valley (one or two gullies to the south of Tequila Pass):
Two N-D2-R2 avalanches in Koch Path area (Harp Mtn side of valley):
N-D2-R2 Cotton Grass Path area (Harp Mtn side of valley):
Multiple N-D2-R2 avalanches in 3 Bowls area (Harp Mtn side of valley):
N-D2-R3 avalanches Leighow and Moon Paths (Harp Mtn side of valley):
Multiple N-D2-R2 avalanches in Lynx Path (Harp Mtn side of valley):
Multiple N-D2-R2 avalanches in 2 Bowls area (Harp Mtn side of valley):
There was another obvious N-D2-R2 avalanche in the gully that is part of the “Solstice Run” from the top of Peak 1212 (North Bowl area).
Snowpack profiled and assessed above Hunter Pass on approach to Peak 1212 (North Bowl area) near start zone of path responsible for December 19, 2013 partial burial (see above map for yellow symbol marking snowpit location):
Skiing in the Peak 1212 (North Bowl area) was actually quite good today – a very pleasant surprise. I’d reckon North Bowl provided for its best turns so far this season with smooth, consistent, wind-buffed powder: creamy freshness. The “Solstice Run” from the top of Peak 1212 was pretty good too, but not as consistent as North Bowl proper.