A week and a half has gone by now since we have had any notable snow deposition from either snowfall or wind transport, and almost as many days of well-above average temperatures. Despite barely freezing temperatures at night, clear skies have continued to lead to solid re-freezes of most slopes. Sun exposure during the day will start the melt part of the cycle all over again progressing from E thru S thru W facing slopes at all elevations, and north facing slopes at lower elevations and up to ~9,700’ where slopes are treed. The only thing different about this early February snowpack warming and the warming that occurs in April is the still-relatively low sun angle in the sky, keeping the intensity of the sun less, and therefore slope warming less. If we had the same temperatures, winds, and cloud cover in April as we do now, we would expect to see quite a bit more loose-wet activity, and the danger of larger and more numerous slides would be greater. Still, isolated loose-wet activity is possible, and this should be kept in consideration especially if riding in areas where a small slide could result in a fall in dangerous terrain. Keep in mind that before these E-S-W facing slopes get exposed to the sun, they are likely to be very firm and icy, and a fall could lead to a slide for life. Crampons and an ice ax would be wise if it is possible that you might be traveling on these steep slopes before they soften. Also note that these slopes begin to re-freeze quickly, and start to become crunchy as the sun-angle becomes less direct on them, especially at upper elevations. For example, a SE slope at 1pm which still appears to have full sunshine on it, will have started to refreeze already because the sunshine angle on the slope has decreased enough.
This extended period of high-pressure ridging, dry conditions, and warm temperatures continue to melt away our already thin snowpack especially at lower elevations and on E-S-W facing slopes.
Persistent loose sugary snow is still being found mid-snowpack in many areas on NE-N-NW aspects due to the thin snowpack. There have been no reports of any avalanche activity on these layers yet this season. But the weak structure is still important to note, for if we ever get a big heavy dump this season, we wouldn't be surprised to see some larger than expected avalanches failing in these deeper layers.
Lastly, thin snowpack in many areas are hiding rocks, logs, and other obstacles just below the surface. Last week a skier hit a shallow rock just below the surface that he didn’t see skiing out of the negatives, resulting in a fall into other just barely covered rocks, and a broken clavicle.