Be on the lookout for changing conditions this weekend as a major winter storm impacts the area. 1-3’ of heavy wet snow is expected throughout the weekend accompanied by gale-force winds.
Expect fresh wind slabs to be most prevalent on northerly and easterly aspects. It is important to remember that strong winds can distribute snow in unexpected ways. Be on the look out for wind deposits at lower elevations, further down slopes, and in more shelterd areas than you may typically expect to find them. Do your own localized assessments and be suspect of terrain features that encourage drifting such as the leeward sides of ridgelines, gully features, and cross-loaded depressions. Surface clues such as blowing snow, recent cornice growth, and uneven snow surfaces can help you identify and avoid areas of recent wind deposit.
Expect the risk of storm slab avalanches to increase on all aspects as the snow starts to accumulate throughout the day on Saturday. Storm Slabs will be most concerning at lower elevations and in terrain that is shelterd from the wind. Watch for signs of instability such as shooting cracks, wumphing, and recent avalanche activity, and be aware that loose unconsolidated sloughs can entrain quite a bit of snow and potentially carry a skier through some unpleasant terrain. Heightened awareness is recommended in sheltered areas over 35°.
It is also important to remember that a thin preseason snowpack still exists throughout the forecast area. While this weekend's snow will help to cover the remaining obstacles, thinly covered rocks and trees are still a real concern. Practice safe travel techniques and use conservative route choice if heading into the backcountry this weekend.