Several of us skied to the Red Cone area yesterday and there was little indication of wind loading along the ridgetops. There was one very small lip along a ridge otherwise cornices were absent. Even though winds on Mammoth Mountain were sustained at 40-60 mph, there was very few signs of wind loading and wind drifted snow. In comparison, avalanche control work on Mammoth Mountain produced good results with slab avalanches 10-16" deep were running 200 to 800 feet. The difference is remarkable.
Three parties dug snowpits yesterday in the trees and right at treeline. Three pits, multiple extended column tests and differences in the thickness and size of the faceted layer at the base of the snowpack. One extended column test failed on depth hoar at the bottom of the pack, others did not crack or propagate. The only generalization that can be made from the variety of snow structure and test results today is that there is a buried weak, faceted layer at the bottom of the snowpack. The ability of this persistent layer to cause a human triggered avalanche varies from slope to slope and at all elevations in the trees, at treeline and in the alpine zones.
The extremely dry and mild weather this winter created a highly variable snowpack: the dry spells created sun crusts on north aspects as well as weak faceted snow sandwiched between the crusts. In some shaded areas, sun crusts did not form but in others, there are 4 sun crusts. This storm had added much needed substance to the snowpack but snow structure changes from slope to slope, aspect to aspect and from glades to scattered timber in the subalpine and in the alpine zones. Obstacles still remain only they are better hidden with the new snow.