Snow Observations List

Island Park
Sawtelle Peak
Explaining Wet, Isothermal Snow
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I dug a pit at 9,300' on a SW facing slope close to the Sawtelle Road. The snow was wet and has lost a lot of strength. I was breaking through a 2" frozen crust at the surface into wet, mushy snow. Once the crust breaks down I expect wet avalanches to continue. The snowpack is 6' deep, very thin for this time of year. Water was able to penetrate this depth quickly. Be careful traveling later in the day when the crust begins to melt and you sink far. This is a sign of instability.

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Island Park
Tin Cup Pass
Stability just got worse
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We rode a loop of Yale Ck, to MT Jefferson, to Hellroaring Ck, to Tin Can Pass, then a beeline back to IP. There was maybe 4+” of new snow which made all the difference in riding quality. There were no avalanches and no wind. Skies were blue and temp stayed below freezing. We dug at the same pit at Tin Cup Pass I did 2 previous times, but this time we got propagation in an ECT13 on the SH buried 30 cm deep. The other two times we did not. With the weak layer getting ECTPs I’m thinking with snow we should see even more avalanches. But it all might get wet from warm temperatures before then.

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Island Park
Sawtelle Peak
Good stability around Sawtelle Peak
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We dug around checking on snow stability for tomorrows KLIM Frozen Cow Tag event. There is only a couple inches of new snow and no wind. We saw no avalanches or signs of instability and our 2 snowpits were stable.

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Island Park
Mt Jefferson Bowl
Good stability around Mt Jefferson and Reas Peak
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We had warm temps and good visibility as we rode into Yale Creek. We saw no avalanches, just a lot of wind affected terrain. We rode out and back: Yale Creek, Mt. Jefferson Bowl, Hellroaring Creek past Reas Peak and dug a pit at Tin Cup Pass. Once we got into Hell Roaring Creek we could find soft snow that was just old snow that faceted. We dug at Tin Cup Pass on a NE facing slope at 8,000'. It was the same spot I dug on February 6 and the hole was plainly visible. We dug to the ground (HS 175) and found a stable snowpack (ECTX). The snow structure: weak facets at the ground, then Pencil to Knife hardness slab, then weak, very sugary snow in the top 18” (plus the 2 surface hoar layers). As I walked over from the sleds to the wind-loaded cornice edge I got a whumph but did not see a crack. It was a wind slab on facets that broke. Very isolated but it reminded me of the Lionhead fatality. Small, wind-loaded terrain. Danger felt generally stable, but the whumph was real and made me wonder what other small terrain features are harboring this instability. Basically, be wary around wind slabs!

 

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Island Park
Sawtelle Peak
Sawtelle Peak - Centennials
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We dug two pits near where Doug and Ian were on January 12th. There has been so little snow since then that one of their pit sites was still clearly visible 6-7 weeks later. We could use some snow! The story here is very similar to that in the ranges from West Yellowstone through Big Sky. The top foot of the snowpack is very weak and getting weaker but we are waiting for snow before anything outside of isolated areas becomes unstable. ECTXs in both pits. The lower snowpack is largely locked up for now with a thick layer of pencil hard snow (rounds) below the facets. 

The total snow depth is ~200 cm which is less than what Doug and Ian found over a month ago. 

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Bottom line: Stable for now, but this will change dramatically with a decent snowstorm. 

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Island Park
Yale Creek
Stamp Meadows/Sawtell Area
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We parked at Sawtell Parking area on Friday. We rode into Whit Elephant Canyon, Tyler Creek, and the ridge between Stamp Meadows Trail and Yale Creek. We dug 2-3' a west facing pit in White Elephant Canyon at 6,000 ft. elevation 50/50 open area with some shading. This pit was solid consolidated snow to the dirt and not any noticeable solar affect, and no faceted snow at the ground. We got no results on the ECT and had to pry the block out. On the Tyler Creek pit again 2-3' we were at 6,500 on a north facing slope in heavy tree cover. At ground level we had 3 to 4" of faceted snow. It we extremely obvious. This pit we got initiation, in the 25 hit area, no ECTP. The thing that stood out for us as I was teaching a new IDPR Educator was the significant difference at ground level with the faceting snow, just in the change of aspect. For the ridge pit above Sawtell Road we were at 7,100 ft., on a south east open facing slope around 3.5'. We had about 1cm to 1.5cm think solar crust developing. You could only hold about a 10" pie pc together before it broke. Not much strength in the solar crust. Under that pretty consolidated snow and minimal faceting at ground level. This pit also initiated at 25 hits but no ECTP results. 

We took our class on Saturday to the Tyler Creek pit since it had layering with that 3-4" of faceted snow. Again we manipulated this pit as hard as we could to try and get propagation by tricks Dave Zinn had showed me but we could not get past just initiation. 

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Island Park
Yale Creek
Hotel/Yale Creek

Wednesday we were on snowbikes in the Hotel/Yale Creek drainages. We beat the snow up pretty hard on steep short slopes with no signs of instability. There was approximately 1" to 1.5" of new snow within the last week that could have easily been surface frost, frozen fog or just light snow. The weather was mild with clear skies to partly cloudy skies and a minimal amount of new snow falling. There is about 3 layers in the snow pack, the surface was light for the top 1/3, getting ice and crusty on the south slopes. We could hear the ice on the skies. The middle third of the snow pack is pretty consolidated, and the bottom snow pack with the temperature variance with the last weeks of high pressure systems seems to be falling apart and faceting. What we have seen in the last couple of weeks is a pretty solid base, however, with the longer high pressure systems, it appears to be coming apart down low towards the ground. We have seen this in many places in Eastern Idaho lately. Many of the streams are open in the big drainages due to the lack of snow. Places to cross can be challenging. 

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Island Park
Tin Cup Pass
Good stability outside Island Park
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From the Gallatin NF Avalanche Center:

We rode up Yale Creek, then to the Mt. Jefferson Bowl, then to Tin Cup Pass north of Mt Raes. We  saw no avalanche activity or signs of instability. It was calm out and the wind was not moving snow. The debris piles on Mt. Jefferson were from an avalanche cycle the end of December and they are still visible. January has been dry! 

Our stability test did not break on the surface hoar. There needs to be more snow on top of it. Possibly on a wind drifted area, but in general, the stability is good until we get more snow. 

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Island Park
Reas Peak
Thin and stable conditions

Just wanted to update you on what we found yesterday in the field working on the Frozen Tag.

We rode on the south side of Sawtelle Road below Rae’s Peak and Stamp Meadows Trail and no surprise to anyone we did not find much snow. What snow was there was hero snow with about a foot of loose dry snow on top of a pretty solid base. We did not see or find any signs of instability where we were at. We beat the snow up pretty hard on convex rolls, small wind loads, and short steep slopes with no results.

The biggest concern we found was open streams. A lot of the drainages have few snow bridges in them. But that was really about it.

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Island Park
Centennials - Idaho
Stable test Island park
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location

44°30'31.0"N 111°33'29.0"W

WSW aspect

7413'

depth 77cm

ECTX

PST 95/100 @15cm

 

 

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