Observation: Cutler Ridge

Observation Date
01/22/2018
Observer Name
Wewer/McKean

Region:

Location Name or Route
Cutler Ridge
Weather
Sky
Overcast
Precipitation
Light Snowfall
Wind Direction
North
Wind Speed
Moderate
Weather Comments
Despite the James Peak and Mt. Ogden anemometers showing SW and WSW wind direction today, we experienced moderate to strong winds blowing primarily from a NW direction, loading Southerly and Easterly slopes, cross loading mid elevation slopes, and creating a slightly punchy slab on the surface of most slopes. Light snowfall on and off throughout the day.
Snow Characteristics
Snow Surface Conditions
Powder
Wind Crust
Rain-Rime Crust
Snow Characteristics Comments

Snow quality in wind exposed areas deteriorated significantly from Sunday. Snow felt punchy in areas where fresh slabs had formed.

Red Flags
Red Flags
Recent Avalanches
Wind Loading
Cracking
Poor Snowpack Structure
Red Flags Comments
We triggered two very small avalanches, and had significant cracking today. See video below for wind loading.
Avalanche Problem #1
Type
Wind Slab
Trend
Decreasing Danger
Comments

Wind loading a southeast-facing slope at approx. 8,000' on "Dead Tree" Knob.

Video

I intended to meadow skip today on low angle slopes.  I was quite surprised to trigger this avalanche on a slightly steeper rollover among otherwise benign terrain.  It was a small avalanche, but notable that it was triggered from a nearly flat area above it.  The first photo was taken from near the point that I triggered the slide, at least 50-75' away from the 34-degree rollover where the crown photo was taken.  The entire slope egg shelled in both directions.

The 8-16" slab (4F to 1F) was fresh wind slab, failing over less dense (F-hard) snow.  North aspect, approx. 8000'.  It failed a few inches above the rain crust, either within the new snow, or possibly at the new/old snow surface.  I observed widespread surface hoar on the old snow surface in this area last week, but didn't note it when we looked at the crown (I didn't think about looking for it until later).

We continued skiing the rolling, low angled terrain, and triggered another similar but smaller slab, this time on a 32-degree slope (I measured with an inclinometer on a ski pole).  I also got a fair amount of cracking while skinning back up the same terrain, again on relatively low-angled slopes.

In contrast, I jumped on several other freshly loaded slopes along wind exposed sub-ridges (areas where SH would typically be destroyed), and barely got any cracking at all.  I wish I had looked harder for the surface hoar layer, because I suspect that may be playing a part.

Skiing below 7500' is still very thin with protruding logs, stumps, bushes, etc.  Most lower elevation areas are not skiable at all.

Video
Today's Observed Danger Rating
Considerable
Tomorrows Estimated Danger Rating
Moderate
Snow Profile Coordinates