With the holiday crowds closing in, I skinned my way up to Mushie two days in a row to check out the snow on both the West and North aspects in the gladed 20-30 degree terrain for something to do. The ridge top had variable areas of 10 cm wind board on facets to soft wind blown crust over, you geussed it, more facets, to dirt patches. The first five upper low angle turns off the ridgeline were decent, fresh turns on stale cake. As the pitches steepened and rolled toward the cliff band that runs in the middle of Mushroom Bowl, the skiing turned to a barely covered nightmare of no more than 60 cms of 2mm facets on rocks and fallen trees. The best way to describe a weighted ski turn two thirds of the way down is hitting a sandcastle with a baseball bat. The snow looses cohesion, desinigrates under the weight and the facets run to the dirt in a glittering hiss below the turn. A frightening prospect for a basal layer for our snow pack when (think positive) our weather cycle does turn back to snow.
If we continue to get small amounts of snow with long periods of calm weather in between, then avalanche wise it’s really no problem, it will just be a low tide year for the central mountains like most of AK’s mountains had last year. However, if we do see an averaging out of the snowfall amounts in the last two thirds of the season, then I have to imagine we will have a signifigant avalanche cycle with the first large dump. With the depth of snow in EV ranging from dirt to sixty cm of loose facets that on both West and North aspects, a two foot dump would rip to the ground with little effort with any kind of rapid loading of typical cold low density mid-winter snow on such a weakly bonded base layer. Our best hope is precip to come in warm and wet and alot of it. Or a storm comes in with such rapid loading that EV flushes itself out naturally overnight and cleans out what has become a forgettable early season mess on all aspects.
Something else to check out. Noaa has an interesting report on their website on the effect La Nina will have on Colorado weather for the rest of the winter. Much of it is super technical, but it is interesting to read the atmospheric science based precipitation predictions for the next six months. I won’t ruin it for you, check it out and draw your own conclusions.
It was a relief to get out into Mushie and skin far far away from the madnesss happening with the holidays in Vail. Just passing Two Elk helped my personal holiday decompression. The lack of sno, however trying, fails to make the skin up to the top of Benchie any less beautiful. The black, grey and white spattered Gore range, gaunt and bare, stretched into a sky littered with purple and grey clouds streaming in from the Northwest. A few tendrils of snow stretched down to touch the very tops of the Gore Range, but the wisps were wishful thinking for a range that is now feet away from average. I enjoyed standing on the top of Benchie again, wind howling and no one around. Pretty much ski hiked the last two thirds of the run both days to the road, but I enjoyed the taste of the EV experience that I have, admittedly, taken for granted over the last fourteen years.