The backcountry ski season around Washington Pass officially started with the big storm that hit the Northwest at the end of November. This storm laid down nearly two feet of new snow at Washington Pass and closed Highway 20 for the winter season.
Overall our snowpack depth is a little shallower than normal but the ski conditions are excellent. Snow depths are averaging around 110 cms between 6,000 and 7,000' with ski penetration in the 25 to 35 cm range. We are currently sitting in the middle of an arctic high pressure but ski quality is excellent, with boot-top powder on all aspects. There are some very thin sun crust on steep south facing terrain but they are isolated and barely noticeable on the down. With these cold temperatures we have been skiing on the south aspects and enjoying some nice sunny powder. The best skiing can be found at higher elevations (above 6,000) and in the terrain farther west. Low elevation skiing zones (below 5,500') do not have enough snow to make it worth it yet.
The primary avalanche concerns right now are wind slabs and loose snow avalanches in steep terrain. With the old, firm layer of snow beneath the storm snow (rain crust below approximately 6,000' and old, variable snow above 6,000'), loose snow avalanches should be expected on steeper terrain. We have observed a few natural loose snow avalanches up to size two, mostly coming out of very steep/un-skiable terrain. The most recent storm has also produced some isolated pockets of wind slab. These pockets will probably be fairly sensitive to skier triggering for a while considering the cold temperatures and structure of the upper snowpack.
This page is for informational purposes only and is no substitute for gathering your own observations in the field and checking the avalanche report at www.nwac.us.
With the cold temperatures the skiing should remain good until the next storm cycle. Forecast are calling for a break down of the high pressure early next week with some small systems moving in. Temperatures should moderate as well but freezing levels should continue to stay low. It looks like the next significant moisture is forecasted to hit the Northwest next weekend, but we all know how accurate long term forecasts are. Enjoy the cold, sunny powder while you can.