Observation: Butler Trees

Observation Date
01/24/2018
Observer Name
Kosinski

Region:

Location Name or Route
Butler Trees
Weather
Sky
Broken
Wind Direction
Northeast
Wind Speed
Moderate
Weather Comments
Wind was picking up throughout the 2.5 hours I was out. Relatively calm with strong gusts. Wind was picking up as I was heading out.
Snow Characteristics
Snow Surface Conditions
Powder
Dense Loose
Melt-Freeze Crust
Damp
Snow Characteristics Comments
Had a bit of everything out there today. A few great turns where you can find them (most of the snow from the last storm is only to be found in the trees). In some areas, the temps in the 40's was causing melting and heavy, wet snow. In other areas, there was a sun/melt freeze crust. The crust was thick (up to 2") and extremely difficult to ski in. Also, this could cause future avalanche problems if we ever do end up getting snow. Wasn't seeing much wind transport, mainly because the southerly facing slopes don't have any snow on them.
Red Flags
Red Flags
Rapid Warming
Poor Snowpack Structure
Red Flags Comments
Where there is actually snow, the snowpack structure is concerning. On the West Butler Saddle, and throughout the area, the snowpack was extremely variable. Almost everywhere had facets at the ground, although the depth of this layer varied. Some places had very dense snow (likely from many thaw freeze cycles) in the middle. This is not a good set up for the rest of the season. Rollerballs/pinwheels were also noted on many southern aspects.
Avalanche Problem #1
Type
Loose Dry Snow
Trend
Decreasing Danger
Problem #1 Comments
Even skiing in the trees with a few small openings, I was able to get a small sluff avalanche going. Although not very concerning on a small slope, this could lead to much bigger problems on a larger run.
Avalanche Problem #2
Type
Persistent Slab
Trend
Same
Problem #2 Comments
The areas I found with a dense layer over near ground facets concerns me. If these areas become loaded in the future (by either snow or a person) they could fail. While this problem is generally found in sheltered areas and any possible ride in an avalanche may be short, the consequences are high. Even with more snow, you would be likely to hit a tree or rock in any avalanche.
Comments
The picture below is one piece of crust that I picked up. This crust is widespread and on various aspects. It is firm enough that your skis won't break through except on turns.
The snow cover, as we all know, is extremely variable at the moment. I saw 0" to 3' of snow on my trip today. I never though I'd have to walk through mud in January. In any case, we need to remember for when it does snow that rocks and trees lurk very close to the surface. Also, we need to remember to keep our "avy mindset" on even though there is not much snow. Just because it's white doesn't mean that you should ski/ride on it, especially with the layers in our current snow pack.
Today's Observed Danger Rating
Moderate
Tomorrows Estimated Danger Rating
Moderate
Snow Profile Coordinates