North Routt: The Gem
Problem #1 Storm Slab: All Elevations Likely; Small to large
Problem #2 Persistent Slab NTL & ATL N-SE; Small to large
Dangerous conditions. You can easily trigger an avalanche 1 to 2 feet deep in the new or drifted snow. Old snow surfaces were chocked full of weak layers and will not bond well with the fresh snow. Terrain below ridges or the backside of steep rollovers where winds have drifted thicker, more cohesive slabs will be the most dangerous. Avoid traveling on any slope steeper than around 30 degrees with more than 10 inches of new or drifted snow. Look for shooting cracks or loud collapses are clear signs of these hazardous conditions.
Select a small amount of conservative terrain in which to operate confidently while more information is gathered to gain confidence in the hazard assessment.
Snomo to Gem trailhead and skied 3x Gem laps
Calm and mostly sunny. Temps at the start of our tour were 10F at 8am at the trailhead and rising to 20F by noon.
Toured NE-E aspects 9300-10300ft. HS 120-140cm with 40cm settled storm snow from the past 72hrs. Strong W/SW winds sculpted fresh wind lips. Lots of cracking on E aspects. Reactive instability tests on NE (ECTP22 SP @ 60cm from surface) with the block jumping out of the snowpit on a 30* slope.
With one to two feet of snow in the Flat Tops, Elkhead, and Park Range, avalanche conditions are going to be spicy. Storm Slabs alone will be large enough to bury someone, given the slope’s size and how much snow is entrained. Below the new snow is a myriad of weak snow layers from crust/facets, to hardened slabs, to surface hoar. Given this setup, the fresh snow will be very touchy on steeper slopes, especially in wind-drifted areas where the slabs are more cohesive.
This load will be a good test for the weak snowpack we’ve seen throughout the Northern Mountains. Areas in the way north, like the Elkhead, could see some avalanches failing to the ground on weak facets and depth hoar.
Alex Pond / Mindy Muliken group skiing an adjacent slope remotely triggered a small soft slab 15″ deep on the new/old snow interface. The avalanche was ~100’x300′ and triggered from 50ft away (estimated). Nobody was caught.