With the storm finishing its third day of churning out moisture, we are in an avalanche cycle. With natural slides probably releasing during the heavy snow events last night and this morning, it would have been a wild day in the mountains. I stayed indoors other than some chores and enjoyed relaxation time. Yesterday after a morning skiing at Lost Trail on their pile of heavy, new snow I ventured to Downing Mountain for a late evening run after pulling the hot tub motor for repairs. There was little snow on the rain crust at the lodge, and then darkness obscured exactly where the snow began in earnest. Somewhere between 6500-7000′ elevation the deep snow started showing with multiple layers of powder, crust, and more soft snow. With snotels indicating a total snowfall production at more than 3 inches of SWE, there is a close to 25% gain of the pack at least from this storm. If that is not enough to stress the snowpack, then the windloading has surely tipped the scales into a natural avalanche cycle. In 1980 when the big slide ran at Little Downing Mountain, there was limited early season snow followed by heavy wet snow and rain to higher elevations, so this is not unusual with snowline at 6500′.
After skinning the milk run under the quarter moon, I peeled for the downhill and skied the far left edge of the Bowl with a constant settling of the new snow as I descended on the two feet of heavy fresh. Reaching one point on the rollover to the bowl, I experienced a particular heavy settlement after which I stopped and looked out into the bowl for evidence of avalanche. There was none, but that was before last night’s extra inch or two of SWE. I hope the snow bands are generous to us as the slab out there leaves little to be desired in terms of surface conditions, trailbreaking ease, and stability. But the good news is that upper elevations are surely sealed in with gobs of fresh snow pasted to all aspects and once it settles out, stabilizes and receives some light fresh, we will be into another good early winter cycle. Elevations below 6500′ are experiencing a breakable crust event. There is an avalanche warning for our area, the Sun Valley Area, parts of the Gallatin forecast area and in the Tetons as well. Welcome to winter, this Holiday week storm was right on time, and a little warm for my taste.