Over the last week we have seen moderate to strong winds that have turned exposed terrain into a patchwork of scour and wind deposit. Typically wind slabs stabilize after a few days, however, due to the poor structure of the underlying snow pack we expect lingering pockets of sensitive slab to remain. Recent observations throughout the forecast area have found dense wind slabs sitting on top of layers of weak facets. The presence of persistent grains is concerning and caution should be taken when traveling in exposed terrain. Forecaster confidence in the distribution and sensitivity of these wind slabs is low and recent events have reminded us that avalanches can happen even in times of low danger. Use safe travel protocols and conduct localized assessments before committing to suspect slopes.
Another concern is the weak nature of our snow pack. The recent stint of clear skies, cold temperatures and thin coverage has contributed to faceting throughout the snow pack at all elevations. Buried crusts have started to break down and as a whole the snowpack has become less cohesive. It’s worth considering the loose nature of the surface snow in steep terrain where sluffs of loose snow could cause a fall. In addition, widespread surface hoar formation has been reported throughout the forecast area at all elivations over the past couple days. It will be important to track on this layer as the predicted storm approaches. Particularly pay attention to areas where it has not been broken down by wind or direct sun. While benign on the surface, when buried, surface hoar can become a very fragile, dangerous weak layer.