January backcountry report

 | January 30, 2012

After somewhat of a hiatus, La Niña seems to be back on track in the Monashees, providing more typical cold temperatures and light dry powder skiing conditions. The end of December provided consistent snowfalls in the Monashees adding a storm slab of over a metre of snow on top of the surface hoar and suncrust layer buried in mid-December. This produced a series of avalanche cycles up to size three in the Monashees and Selkirks demonstrating that it was a time to keep it simple and avoid consequential avalanche terrain.

A skiing event on Jan. 19 enforced the lesson of safe backcountry skiing habits. With a relatively simple snowpack of primary concerns for recent storm windslabs and possible weak bond to a suncrust buried on Jan. 13, potential for large propagative avalanches was low. After skiing from a windblown, low angle alpine summit our group dropped into a treeline glade and regrouped. Even though skiing steep convex slopes the previous day didn’t produce any reactivity in the storm snow the decision was made to ski the tight steep chutes, called DoubleVision, one at a time. The first skier started with a ski cut across the top with no results other than a good shred. As the second skier entered the 45 degree slope a soft slab cut loose. The skier skied to the side and let the slab run out to the bottom of the chute. This event made the decision easy for the rest of the group; ski the slid chute and leave the second one for another day. It enforced good habits of skiing avalanche terrain one at a time.

With forecasted heavy snowfall for late January, be cautious of more load on buried windslabs in open areas treeline and above, and with it the potential for avalanches to release on the Jan. 13 suncrust.

Check the Public Avalanche Bulletin for updated conditions and advice for travelling in avalanche terrain. Snowpack and avalanche information is also available on the ACMG Mountain Conditions Report and PowderCloud.

Check these advisories before heading into the mountains:, and