The snow season is off to an interesting start with a complicated snow structure developing. The season started off in earnest with a warm storm in early November, with 7 to 20 inches being reported throughout the region. This resulted in the formation of a combination of snow and melt-freeze crusts above ground that can be found between 9,500’ to 11,000’+. A couple weeks of dry unseasonably warm weather followed these storms, which resulted in the development of small facets above ground and capped by an ice crust above. The snowpack depth receded dramatically as the unseasonably warm temperatures took their toll on the snowpack. The next system to move into the region rolled though on November 27th, with another wave of warm moisture dropping an additional 1 to 10 inches of snow above 9000’ level. The storm system came in very warm with moderate Southerly to Southwesterly winds. Precipitation amounts range from 1 to 10” of snow, initially wet and dense. As the system moved through the region temperatures began to fall and the snow density decreased producing shallow powder skiing above 9,500’. These two storms have combined to produce a supportive ice crust / facet mid snowpack with faceted surface grains. The basal snow is showing some previous faceting but the current temperature gradient within the snowpack is weak, slowing further growth. The snowpack is fairly thin overall with early season conditions and hazards (rocks, stumps, logs, open water, etc). With little to no snow below ~ 9000’ to 9500’, the likelihood of human triggered releases is unlikely but as you ascend above 9,500’ triggered avalanches are possible. Keep an eye out for wind slabs, shallow unstable pockets, as well as the presence of persistent slab weaknesses in the upper elevations on E-N-NW facing slopes.
South and north of Mammoth, snowfall amounts have been lower, making easily access to skiable and rideable terrain more difficult and long approaches.
Other concerns: early season conditions exists. There are plenty of rocks, stumps, down trees just under the snow surface, use caution while riding and playing in the backcountry.