A question for the old-timers. Have you seen a year like this?

  • Charlie Hagedorn
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07 Feb 2021 18:57 #234623 by Charlie Hagedorn
I've been recreating actively in the wintertime Cascades since the 05/06 season -- Perhaps it is just my memory, but I can't recall a snowpack like this one.

Have any of you experienced a snowpack like this in the cascades? After a strange start (dumps and pineapples), we are alternating lots of snow and significant periods of cold/faceting conditions.   Did '99 do this? 

If so, how did things go in late February/early March? I'm used to having perhaps a PWL in the form of surface hoar or near-surface facets emerge sometime around March, but only one at a time, and rarely so reactive.
 

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  • kamtron
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09 Feb 2021 10:02 #234637 by kamtron
Wasn't a couple years ago similar? I do remember rain crusts + facets and deep slabs that were reactive, went dormant, then awoke come spring rains & warmth.

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09 Feb 2021 15:14 #234640 by Charlie Hagedorn
This year is different because we may be about to do it again (and the faceting is perhaps the weakest I've encountered). The coming week looks like another cycle of near-surface faceting.

We should expect the facets to round eventually (and then reawaken with the rain), but I'm managing this hazard even-more carefully than usual.

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  • kamtron
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09 Feb 2021 16:01 #234643 by kamtron
Yeah I don't feel comfortable, especially being up in Bellingham and skiing Baker now. A lot of open, alpine terrain.

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  • old school
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09 Feb 2021 19:12 #234648 by old school
I've been skiing here since spring of 1990 and dont recall this level of faceting, althought I recall a good 6-8 week stretch of buried layers that finally let loose in spring  I couldnt tell you the year.  12 years ago? 
 

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  • kamtron
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11 Feb 2021 09:38 #234660 by kamtron
Another question for the old schoolers:
If a slope already ran on the mid January layer that we're all worried about, would it be safe to assume that layer is no longer an issue on that slope?

This would currently apply to S face Herman, for example, or some parts of Shuksan arm.

My feeling is that the sliding surface is still there but the weakness is gone, so it's probably reset to crust + whatever snow fell after the slide. I suppose you can still get near-crust faceting occuring and would want to stay out from under other slopes that didn't slide and could harbor reamaining deep slabs.

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  • Chamois
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12 Feb 2021 17:24 #234689 by Chamois
Been skiing around here for 30 years, don't get out as much as I used to -- but this is a weird one.  What I've especially noticed in the past decade is that the variability is up, particularly below 5k feet.  Cheers, be safe.

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  • Lowell_Skoog
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16 Feb 2021 16:38 #234705 by Lowell_Skoog
I think it's likely there have been years like this one, but we notice it particularly this year because:
a) There are more backcountry skiers to notice these things now.
b) Lift skiing isn't the attractive alternative it used to be.

I've been backcountry skiing since the late 1970s, but for most of those years I did most of my mid-winter skiing on the lifts. Backcountry skiing was mainly a spring activity for me. That's still true, to some extent, but in recent years lift skiing has become less appealing because of increased crowding. With COVID-19 crowd restrictions, it's even more severe this year. I've been getting out quite a bit this year, but it's been almost entirely XC skiing with my partner and uphill skinning sessions by myself at a convenient ski area.

The various patterns we've seen this year--heavy rains, cold snaps, epic dumps--aren't by any means unusual. But having them all in sequence is noteworthy, if not really surprising. I recall that the epic snow year of 1999 was predicted by some to have massive avalanche problems, but it didn't really happen because the snowfall and temperature regime was relatively consistent through the winter. So we just ended up with a huge snowpack without many discontinuities in it.
 

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