Observation: Moab

Observation Date
01/14/2017
Observer Name
Dave Garcia

Region:

Location Name or Route
Laurel Highway > Gold Basin
Weather
Sky
Scattered
Wind Direction
South
Wind Speed
Calm
Weather Comments
Beautiful day to be in the mountains. Partly cloudy skies with some direct sunshine every now and then. Warm temperatures today. Low 30's above 9,000 ft and low 20's above 11,000 ft. Winds were mostly calm with an occasional light breeze out of the south.
Snow Characteristics
Snow Surface Conditions
Powder
Dense Loose
Snow Characteristics Comments
The storm cycle ended early yesterday morning (1/13) and there is no new snow to report since then. Yesterday it skied 12 to 15 inches deep. By today it had settled a bit and skied more like 8 to 12 inches deep. The storm snow is becoming more dense on open slopes due to warm temperatures and sunshine today.
Red Flags
Red Flags
Collapsing
Red Flags Comments
Skied all day with no obvious red flags until I started skinning out the bottom of Gold Basin. I had a small collapse with a whoomph on a low elevation, low angle, sun exposed slope on my skin out of the drainage back to the Gold Basin road. I'll post a picture of the meadow below, you all know the spot. The collapse is worth noting. Temperatures in the low elevations were warm today and this slope was receiving a good amount of sunshine. The storm snow was becoming pretty dense and starting to resemble decent slab material. A hasty pit revealed facets beneath. If you read my report from 1/12/17 I posted a picture of large facets found beneath a mid elevation SW facing slope (Laurel Meadow). Very similar snow structure where I felt the collapse today, and very similar aspect to Laurel Meadow. This problem should be very isolated to low elevations for now. But if you find yourself on a steep sun exposed slope above a creek drainage or something like that it may be something to consider.
Avalanche Problem #1
Type
Wind Slab
Trend
Decreasing Danger
Problem #1 Comments
Just a quick comment on the winds today. We've now had two days in a row with calm to light winds. 1/12 was the last significant wind loading event. The wind slab danger should be trending down for now, but slopes facing north and east are still suspect. Check out the photos below to see the work the winds have been doing on the windward side of the ridge.
Snow Profile
Aspect
Southwest
Elevation
11300
Slope Angle
28
Comments
Pit Details: SW face, 11,300 ft, 28 degree slope. I thought this snow pit was a good example of conditions on the windward side of the ridge at high elevation. It is interesting because this pit site was mostly wind scoured throughout the storm cycle that started on 1/4/17. It had gone through several days of scour, cross load, scour, cross load, but snow really started piling up at this site on 1/12. The pit reveals two key things. The first is that the base depth here is very shallow, those strong winds really took a lot of snow off this face. The second is that because of the shallow snowpack we now have depth hoar and facets at the ground level here. There is a mix of crust/facet/graupel sandwiches above the facets. This structure was not necessarily contributing to instability today, in fact myself and at least three others skied the slope. For now there is not a slab on top of these layers. Add a slab to the mix and this structure could certainly produce avalanches. This is something to keep in mind for the future.
A shot of the crust/facets sandwiches above the real facets. Second photo is a closeup of the facet/graupel mixture. A lot of graupel fell with those storms before 1/12.
A couple shots of the facets/depth hoar found at the bottom layers.
The first shot here is the skier's right side of the slope in question. It is obviously wind scoured. Where I am standing is scoured to the ground level. The middle of the slope is seen in the top right corner. The second photo is the skier's left of the same slope. This is very obviously wind loaded. These two shots demonstrate why terrain management is so important. The same slope has very different conditions from one side to the next. Poor skiing conditions found on the skier's right scoured side, decent riding in the middle, and the left side where you could possibly trigger a slide. The last photo below is the meadow where I felt a small collapse with a whoomph.
Today's Observed Danger Rating
Moderate
Tomorrows Estimated Danger Rating
Moderate
Snow Profile Coordinates