It’s been a while since we have written a Backcountry Conditions Report. That could mean one of two things. Either the skiing sucks and we don’t want to talk about it or the skiing has been good and we’ve been too busy skiing to get on the computer. Fortunately for everyone’s sake the skiing has been good. Sorry for the lack of communication.
Well, from my facebook lurking, it seems like a lot of my friends in Washington are enjoying some epic early season conditions, and the same is true in the Washington Pass area along with pretty good stability!
Washington Pass: I was pleasantly surprised to find good quality dry snow above 6000′ on shaded aspects yesterday. There was wind effect in many alpine locations (still quite skiable), but more protected areas skied really well! Compared to last year, the snowpack is noticeably deeper. Total snow depth ranges from ~170cm on lower elevation solar aspects to well over 250cm in shaded northerly aspects, and this means that a lot of lines are really well filled in!
This happened on Sunday December 6, 2015. Two skiers left the ski area near Corona Bowl planning to ski the backside of Stevens Pass. They realized how unstable the snow was and decided to try to find a low-angled exit. The terrain is quite complicated in this zone and they ended up triggering an avalanche that fully buried one of the skiers. Fortunately she was dug up in time with no major injuries. Be careful out there! It's going to take a little while for things to settle out.
Here is the latest snowpack observation from Stevens Pass. The snow has been piling up and Stevens has done a good job of playing catch-up. The skiing inside the ski area is getting better every day. The snow quality the last few days has been very good, with 16 inches of new over the last 48 hours. I even had a few face shots today off of Cowboy Ridge. That being said, the snowpack is still pretty shallow in this zone (average at 5,800' = 100 cms).
Here are the most recent observations from the Stevens Pass zone. Very few recent avalanches observed near Stevens Pass. The main concerns right now are wet loose avalanches on sun exposed slopes at treeline and below as well as isolated wind slabs near ridge crest. The best skiing can be found on north aspects above 4,000'.