Mountain News: 

River melting, roads treacherous in Banff

BANFF, Alberta — The storm that drenched Whistler also created odd and even treacherous conditions in the Bow River Valley from Canmore to Lake Louise. The weather had turned from intensely cold to rain that froze when hitting the TransCanada and other highways. Even snowplows spreading sand couldn’t stay upright.

The valley was drowned by more than 18 millimetres of rain on Jan. 17-21, with temperatures right at freezing.

All this caused the snowpack at ski areas to shrink, and in several cases, for the ski areas to close because of closed roads. The highway north from Banff was closed for a time, as was the TransCanada Highway in what the Rocky Mountain Outlook says was the greatest series of road closures in at least 10 years. As well, the rain created extreme avalanche conditions.

Meanwhile, melting ice in the Bow River forced cancellation of what would have been the 30 th annual Mountain Madness Relay Race. The event calls for competitors to cross that and other waterways.

"The river is just too unstable right now," explained Cathy Sinclair-Smyth, Banff’s special events co-ordinator. It’s a rare occurrence in this part of the world, but we’ve seen a 50-degree temperature difference this week. It’s extraordinary. It’s insane," she said, speaking Friday, Jan. 21.

However, it’s not the first time the event was cancelled, as no winners were named in either 1991 or 1992.

Snowpack disappearing

KETCHUM, Idaho — Already subpar snowpacks in the Pacific Northwest have been shriveling in the embrace of record-high temperatures. At the summit of Sun Valley’s Bald Mountain, the 100-inch snowpack had shrunk to 50 inches in three weeks of January.

While that left the snowpack in the Ketchum area at 77 per cent of average, it was even worse in other parts of Idaho, reports the Idaho Mountain Express.

This mid-winter thaw has been so uncommonly warm that some ski areas, including Idaho’s Schweitzer Mountain, had to close. In Washington, climatologist Philip Mote said he does not ever recall snow melting at an elevation of 6,200 feet during the middle of winter.

Inversion in Sierra Nevada

LAKE TAHOE, Calif./Nev. — Some people in the Lake Tahoe area were getting down in the dumps recently after fog moved in on the paws of a herd of cats’ feet. The fog settled in for seven days, causing some to think they had been relocated to San Francisco.

During the temperature inversion, reports the Tahoe World, 14,000-foot peaks in the Sierra Nevada were as warm or warmer than the valleys of 4,000 feet in western Nevada.

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