Cooke City, January 9th Update.
No fresh snow today but the forecast is calling for some soon :happydance
We hit two areas today between our groups. A few went to 'top'. It is sketchy getting there but, that is where the untracked powder is for now. The rest of us headed out for some view of the fog invading the valleys early in the day. Then we were on a quest for some of the patches of untracked snow in pockets here and there. There crust is setting up on top and is fairly stiff in the trees. The sugar is underneath and in pockets around tress and creeks.
A brisk night, fresh snow and a very cold day made for some fun in the hills. The snow had a good base today due to the frigged weather.
Avy Report From Avalanche.orgMadison and Gallatin Ranges, and the mountains around Cooke City:
Yesterday’s snow was light density, 5% powder. Less than half an inch of water (SWE) fell in the Gallatin, Madison and Cooke City Ranges. This will not add much stress to the snowpack except in areas wind-loaded with the storm. Eight inches of airy fluff are now blown into 1-2 foot thick drifts. Winds were not confined to the ridgetops either; strong winds cross-loaded lower slopes too. With anemometers showing north to west winds at ridges and south to east winds at lower elevations, you’ll be able to find wind-loading on most aspects. To complicate things further, Cooke City even has ridgetop winds blowing from the rare direction of east.
The avalanche message is simple: Wind-loading is bad. Our mountains have various layers of weak, sugary facets that will have a difficult time supporting a wind drift (video). The snow surface before the storm was also feathery crystals of surface hoar and near surface facets (snowpit), now buried and unstable. The avalanche danger is CONSIDERABLE on all wind-loaded terrain today, no matter its steepness. Even slopes slightly wind-loaded will be sensitive to triggering. On sheltered slopes the avalanche danger is rated MODERATE.
1/12/12 The Bridger, Madison and Gallatin Ranges, the Lionhead area near West Yellowstone, and the mountains around Cooke City:
Now is a difficult time. Since the large storm on New Year’s Eve, the snowpack has adjusted to the stress of that snow, and it has become harder to trigger an avalanche. Signs of instability are not obvious. Yesterday I skied in the Sheep Creek drainage north of Cooke City where the snowpack gave me a false sense of security because it felt “good” under my skis. This feeling does not mean slopes were stable and I was easily tricked. With a sharp eye, my partner pointed out many avalanche crowns from last week that were not easy to see. Weak layers in the snowpack were not obvious either because there is a supportable slab covering them. The only way to identify these weak layers is to dig a snowpit and perform stability tests.
In most areas 1-2 ft of snow rest on top of a variety of weak layers including buried surface hoar, near-surface facets, and depth hoar. Yesterday on Mt Ellis in the northern Gallatin Range, Doug found buried surface hoar. It gave him no signs of instability until he dug a snowpit. It was an obvious stripe in the snowpit wall and easily fractured in stability tests (photo). Nearby in Hyalite Canyon, conditions are generally more stable, but some slopes have a weak layer buried about 2 ft deep (video). To further complicate matters near West Yellowstone, yesterday’s fresh snow capped another layer of surface hoar that will be a future concern (photo). This layer was also observed near Big Sky by the Moonlight Basin Ski Patrol where it exists on slopes sheltered from the wind.
On isolated slopes, winds blew yesterday’s snow into drifts and formed fresh wind slabs. These drifts and wind slabs should not be trusted. They can make the difference between slopes that avalanche and ones that do not. Karl showed this difference in a recent video taken in the Bridger Range (video).
Riding in avalanche terrain now is like running a yellow light that turns red just as you pass through the intersection. You can get away with it sometimes, but eventually you’ll either get a ticket or cause an accident. Today human triggered avalanches are definitely possible, and the avalanche danger is MODERATE.
Looking good Jacob. Ask "the Angry American" if I can drop my sled off at his house this Sunday night. I can spend some quality time with Mrs. Mom until he gets home!!!! That will make loading a hair quicker in GR. Smurfriders sled will be in GR.
After the long haul out from Michigan and unloading 26 sleds out of the trailer. 29 flatlanders are back in Cooke.
A short day of riding was in order.
Lots of fresh snow around town and in the areas we did make it to in the couple of hours we rode.
Avy danger is super high. Hanging in the meadows and pines made for a challenge with the new snow. The couple of feet give a false sense of security, as you ride along the bottom will fall right out on you.
This was inviting, lots of new snow and then we had to dig the sleds out.
wow i love the pic of the sleds under all that pow, sure helps to see you guys riding after our meltdown here
Ya, all that fresh was inviting until looking at digging those sleds out.
Cooke City, MT Jan 23rd Ride Update......
Lots of fresh out in the area. With the avy danger being high we had a Flatlander Support Group Meeting at the 'top' to play in the meadows, trees and lakes. Boy the snow on 'top' is deep. Lots of untracked deep stuff. The new snow is quite 'sticky' and packs well making for tough stucks when the sugary bottom drops out.
Click image for larger version Name: PIC_0539-web.jpg Views: 24 Size: 63.6 KB ID: 29813Click image for larger version Name: IMG_2786-web-before.jpg Views: 22 Size: 94.2 KB ID: 29814Click image for larger version Name: IMG_2791-web-after.jpg Views: 19 Size: 94.1 KB ID: 29815Click image for larger version Name: IMG_2799-dusty.jpg Views: 20 Size: 93.8 KB ID: 29816
The Southern Madison Range, Lionhead area near West Yellowstone and mountains around Cooke City:
Yesterday's calm weather allowed the snowpack to take a deep breath and start adjusting to last week's storm snow. This has helped overall stability. However, the pack is still far from achieving equilibrium.
The most recent storm deposited 3-4 inches of SWE, which fell on a very weak foundation of faceted snow. This weak layer is widespread in the mountains around West Yellowstone and is found on many slopes in the mountains around Cooke City. On Saturday, Mark observed a large natural avalanche on Scotch Bonnet which failed on facets formed prior to this latest storm (photo, video). Yesterday, riders in the Lionhead remotely triggered two avalanches on wind loaded slopes, a poignant reminder of the unstable conditions that exist in that area.
The avalanche hazard is trending down, but human triggered avalanches remain likely today and the avalanche danger is rated CONSIDERABLE
Cooke City, January 24th Update
Most of this weeks Flatlander Crew from MomsMotorSports headed up to the top again in search of the deep snow. A few of us headed north east to the lakes and boundary areas in search of some closer untracked pockets. The guys up on top had some carnage. A-arms and shocks, maybe more. Out to the north east is pretty tracked up already but there are lots of pockets with deep snow. Most of the hills and climbs are clean though. Unfortunately the avy danger is too high to mess with them now.
Pictures and Video from today to come in the a.m.
The southern Madison and southern Gallatin Ranges, Lionhead area near West Yellowstone and mountains around Cooke City:
Even though the weekend avalanche warning in the southern mountains expired, this area still remains quite active. Outside Cooke City yesterday a snowmobiler was buried in an avalanche on Scotch Bonnet near Lulu Pass (photo). Luckily his arm was sticking out of the snow and nearby skiers dug him out. This near miss is just one of a string. On Saturday, a massive slide on Scotch Bonnet was triggered from hundreds of feet away and later that same day a snowmobiler was partially buried on Henderson Mountain in an avalanche he triggered and was unable to outrun. Mark was there and posted a video and picture of the activity. On Sunday, a snowboarder triggered a slide near Lulu pass on a south facing slope and released another slide sympathetically. A layer of small-grained facets buried under four feet of new snow since last Monday (5” SWE) is the unstable weak layer.
In Lionhead on Sunday, there were multiple avalanches remotely triggered by snowmobilers. One notable slide broke on a low angle 30 degree slope from 300 feet away. Yesterday, another natural avalanche was seen in Cabin Creek by Ace Powder Guides. Weak, large-grained sugary snow is breaking a foot or two off the ground from the recent snows.
The avalanche warning this weekend denoted hair-trigger conditions with many avalanches releasing naturally or being triggered from afar. Things have improved since then, but only slightly. Touchy, dangerous conditions still exist in the southern mountains. A few inches of new snow with winds will keep the backcountry dangerous. For today, the avalanche danger is rated HIGH on all wind-loaded slopes and CONSIDERABLE elsewhere. Unfortunately, around Cooke City the more popular lines to ride or ski are usually wind-loaded
Cooke City, MT - January 25th ride report
It was a day for the trees at elevation. The wind was whipping around the light accumulation fiercely making visibility very low on 'top'. We managed to tuck in some meadows and play off the smaller lake edges avoiding the wind for mos of the day.
The snow up top is blowing and drifting in pockets making for some fluffy powder. Our tracks from Tuesday had vanished before our arrival this morning, making for a pleasant ride in new snow.
In the last 24 hours mountain temperatures have risen to 20F with strong westerly winds blowing 25-30 mph and gusts over 50 mph. Scattered snow showers dusted the Bridger Range and dropped 1-2 inches everywhere else. Continued showers today and tonight will drop 2-4 inches favoring the southern areas. Winds will remain strong and temperatures will hover near 20F. Tomorrow looks to be the snowiest day of the week.
The southern mountains, including Cooke City and the Lionhead area, have serious stability concerns (video). Mark and Karl were in Lionhead yesterday. Avalanches from the weekend were numerous; however, what gave them pause was a large, fresh, natural avalanche that broke with only two inches of new snow (photo). They dutifully dug snowpits, but found inconsistent results in their stability tests. No matter, recent avalanches provided the bulls-eye information they were looking for. The snowpack is weak and unsupportable. Carving a turn would easily sink the track down into the facets. Foot penetration was to the ground. A skier in the Bacon Rind area commented it was easy to investigate the snowpack when it’s at chest level. Snow during the past week has created slabs and increased stress. A few collapses and poor stability test results were all he needed to stick to sub 30-degree slopes.
The Cooke City area has gotten snow nine out of the last ten days. Natural avalanches and many human triggered slides, some triggered from afar, partially buried snowmobilers on Saturday and again on Monday (photo). Remote triggering is scary stuff since we can release avalanches from flat terrain, hundreds of feet below the starting zone. Seeing natural avalanches in Lionhead after a paltry two inch snowstorm, plus remote triggering in Cooke City is conclusive evidence that the avalanche danger is rated CONSIDERABLE on all slopes today.
Just had breakfast with Doug Chabot from Avalanche.org, very enlightening conversation regarding avy conditions here in the Rocky West. He and his partner are heading up to dig some pits and analyze the conditions today. Preliminary reports show a heavy ice crust on south and east facing slopes and wind loading on east facing slopes with the new light snow. Some north facing slopes seem to be a bit safer at this point. They are going to check out the self on Henderson today. Then they will head up to crown butte.
The snow is still here. The fresh that fell last week has settled and the tracks were abundant in the canyon area. A few of the guys from the other group went to the hills on the west range. Deeper snow, steeper terrain though and there have been a few natural slides in the area.
Here is the report form Avalanche.org
Yesterday, Doug investigated a large natural side that occurred in the Lionhead area on Friday (video). He found an avalanche that broke up to 3 feet deep, three hundred feet across and ran nearly 800 vertical. It was a hard slab that failed on facets near the ground. What was surprising about this avalanche is that it naturally released after the area received only a few inches of new snow. This illustrates the weak and fragile nature of the snowpack in the mountains near West Yellowstone.
The snowpack in the mountains around Cooke City is spatially variable. Some slopes have a deeper, stronger snowpack while others have a layer of facets buried 3-4 deep that is still causing avalanches. Slopes with a southerly aspect have the widest distribution of this layer. On Thursday I remotely triggered a large slide on the south face of Mt Abundance (photo) and on Saturday riders observed a natural avalanche in the same area (photo).
A calm weather pattern over the past few days is making it more difficult to trigger avalanches. However, it is still very possible to trigger a slide on slopes steeper than 35 degrees. Avalanches will be easier to trigger in areas where the snowpack is thinner, such as rock outcroppings or thin scoured areas.
Blue bird skies here in Island Park this week making for some great views. The set-up hero snow makes exploring and boondocking up hill in the valleys and trees easy. Some snow is in the forecast and it is greatly needed. We have covered some ground here in IP looking for the fresh deep snow. The big area on the west edge is fairly tracked up and there is evidence of natural slides from the past week. To the north and east the snow is sunbaked and hard with about 2 inches of snow and 2 inches of hoar frost.
Weather and avy report from Avalanche.org
Yesterday was a splitter day with lots of sun, temperatures in the teens and light winds. Ridgetop winds picked up slightly last night and are currently blowing 15-25 mph out of the west to southwest. Winds will continue today as temperatures rise into the mid 20s. Valley fog will give way to sunny skies this morning before more clouds roll in tonight and drop an angstrom or two of snow (one ten-millionth of a millimeter, aka flurries). By the way, has anyone seen La Nina? She’s missing and frankly I’m upset with her.
As the snowpack strengthens and becomes less hair-trigger determining stability becomes more slope specific. A few slopes are good, some are fair, and a few are still very poor. The skiers did not dig any pits because they did not have to; Mother Nature gave them the equivalent of a flashing neon warning and they stuck to low angled terrain. In general, my confidence with this snowpack is low. I don’t completely trust it. For today, the avalanche danger remains CONSIDERABLE on slopes steeper than 35 degrees and MODERATE on less steep.