Backcountry Advisory_dec8_2000 

As of Wednesday, Dec. 6

Although the weather has been great if your a mountain biker or a climber, it leaves something to be desired from a skier's point of view. We aren't expecting snow for several more days and the temperatures are relatively mild.

Avalanche control after last Saturday's new snow produced numerous slab avalanches to size 2.5. Reports of skier-triggered size 2 avalanches and skier involvements have recently been frequent. Our usual habit of travelling into tight little chutes in rocky terrain where wind loading takes place is not an advisable activity right now. We do not have our usual snowpack.

Although there is a well formed facet weakness in our snowpack from below treeline right up into the alpine, in many areas there is not sufficient load over these instabilities for widespread avalanche activity. It is when we seek out pockets of loading that we find slopes with enough snow to form avalanches. A seemingly small slab avalanche could prove disastrous if the run-out involves rocks, cliffs, trees, and holes.

The buried instability is significant enough that new snow or wind events cause slab formation and increased activity into the old snow including sympathetic and remote triggered releases. The key to safe travel right now is understanding the variable snow load and identifying slopes that have sufficient load to avalanche. Buried stress points are many and varied.

The backcountry avalanche danger rating as of Dec. 6, 2000 is CONSIDERABLE. The lack of new snow does not mean the instability is strengthening. The buried instability is a persistent one, and it will be with us for a while.

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