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February 4, 2003, Alpental Valley

WA Snoqualmie Pass
Posted by ski_photomatt on 2/4/03 9:30pm
The ski report from Snoqualmie was saying 3-4" of new snow Sunday night with perhaps 6" additional at the top of Alpental from earlier in the weekend.  Hoping for some good skiing, I headed up to Chair Peak Basin;  what I found was quite surprising.

I left Seattle a little before noon and was skinning up the Source Lake trail by 1pm.  A few inches of unconsolidated powder here.  In the basin above source lake the sun was shinning, doing it's dirty work on anything west and most likely south facing forming sun crust up to at least 5000ft.  East facing slopes were however spared.  I dug a snow pit in the small basin below Chair Peak on a 30-35 degree slope, wind loaded and wind slabby, a tad over 5000ft.  There was perhaps 1.5-2ft of new and wind transported snow over the old snow.  Shovel shear broke about a foot down, compression test required 10 hits from the wrist, 10 from the elbow and 4 from the shoulder to fracture the column.  Rutchblock required a step onto the isolated block, another step into the center, and one hard weight down with my knees.  It only slide 6" down however, a good distance above where shovel shear and compression test failed.  I want to point out again that this was in a wind slab and is not representative of most of the snow conditions (it was far more slabby and deeper than nearly everywhere else).

Speaking of snow conditions:  they were excellent on slopes that had not gotten heated by the sun during the day.  Due to the late hour, the entire basin was shaded before my descent.  On east facing slopes snow was unconsolidated powder, deep enough and with a slow enough transition to not feel the old snow.  Anything slightly west or south facing had a crust.  Interestingly, some boulders had a sun crust on one side and unconsolidated powder on the other.  By following my nose (and sticking to the west side of the basin) I was able to use subtle terrain features to find consistently good snow.  The skiing directly above source lake (say below the Bryant Pk couloir) was good enough to take another short run just as the sun was setting.
Thanks for all of the useful info, and glad you found good skiing.

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2003-02-05 05:30:06