Heads Up! Changing weather conditions and increasing avalanche hazard this weekend.
A special weather statement for hazardous weather conditions was issued by the NWS this morning. This weather system will be intensifying over the weekend, with heavy snowfall expected Saturday evening into Sunday.
Significant snowfall this weekend will overload weak, basal, persistent layers in the existing snowpack. Expect natural avalanches to be possible and human triggered avalanches to be likely, and large enough to bury, injure or kill a person. Remotely triggered avalanches may be possible. Remotely triggered avalanches pose a uniquely dangerous hazard that is highly unpredictable. You can trigger avalanches from long distances away, from the flats below a steep slope, or in adjacent terrain.
All the problems we saw in the last big snow dump on 10/26 will likely repeat themselves in this weekend’s storm cycle. If you have not reviewed the observations from the 10/26 storm cycle, please familiarize yourself here. The north face of Government peak had several natural avalanches that failed during the storm. There were 4 remotely triggered avalanches reported the day after the storm. Below are two photos which show the character of the 10/26 avalanche problem.
Other important factors affecting our current backcountry decision making and risk:
- If there’s enough snow to ride, there’s enough snow to slide.
- Shallow coverage means exposed and shallowly buried rock hazards. Even a small avalanche could sweep you into dangerous rock hazards.
- Shallow coverage is pushing all users to the same limited terrain with the best coverage and base. This increases the chances for an incident or accident.
- COVID pressure. Expect a lot of people in the backcountry and the potential for overcrowding, especially if we get a clear day just after the storm.
If you haven’t already inspected all of your avalanche safety gear for the upcoming season, now is the time. Replace old batteries in your beacon with new and inspect for corrosion or leakage issues which require warranty or replacement. If your beacon is 10 years or older, replace with a new, 3 antenna, modern unit. Consider donating your old beacon to your local avalanche center for training purposes. Perform function tests of your avalanche airbag systems, inspect critical components as outlined by manufactures. Inspect your shovel and probe for cracks or damage and replace if necessary. Practice efficient deployment of your shovel and probe. Inspect your radios, replace batteries, program frequencies, and test Tx an Rx functionality.
10/26 – Hatch Common, NE, 4200′, looking down on $1000 run. Remotely triggered avalanched. Rider remotely triggered avalanche above them and was as able to outrun the avalanche. Rider was not caught, carried, or injured. This avalanche varied from 1-3 feet deep. It did not run full track. Note: Terrain trap in the runnout.
10/26 – April Bowl, NE, 4400′. Remotely triggered avalanche. No involvement. Skier retreated from descending the run. Did not run full track.
Our operational season starts on November 14. At that point we will be issuing regular weekend advisories and mid-week conditions summaries through mid April. Until then, continue to check this website and our social media feeds for various updates as weather, snowpack, and avalanche conditions warrant.