The storm that rolled in earlier this week left us with a slab of snow overlying a multitude of weak layers. This slab ranges in thickness from 1-3' across the forest. There are a variety of weakness such as melt/freeze crusts, facets and buried surface hoar. Although the weaknesses vary in type, they are consistently present and reactive on all aspects and elevations above 4,500'. These weaknesses will take substantial time to heal. Avoid traveling on slopes over 30° and remember that with a persistent slab problem it is very possible that you may trigger a slide from lower angle terrain that is below or adjacent to steeper slopes.
On December 21st we ventured into the Flatiron area of the Purcell Range. As is often the case we found a thinner snowpack and abundant amounts of weak sugary snow on top of the Thanksgiving rain crust. The most notable observations were the persistant and loud settling sounds from the snowpack on the way in. Widespread whoomping and collapsing was present as the 2' thick slab settled on a thick layer of facets. Stability tests revealed a weak layer in the top 10-12" that was not fully propagating and should heal quickly. The main layer of concern was the failure 2' below the surface where we have a thin melt freeze crust overlying about 6-7" of facets. Below these facets sits the stout Thanksgiving rain crust. ECT scores on this layer ranged from ECTP15-17. The slab has strengthened and become less reactive; but, the take-home message here is that you can expect things to move in a big way on steep terrain when it does break
Turner mountian ski patrol reported that there were some small soft slabs (8-10") that released and made small runs on steeper isolated slopes as well.
Backcountry Forecast from NWS Missoula issued: 410 AM MST Fri Dec 22 2017 DISCUSSION: Snow is spreading into the region and the main change was to linger snow through tonight and Saturday morning in north- central Idaho and west-central Montana. Colder arctic air is still expected to bring increased northeasterly winds and colder temperatures. Single digits to below zero temperatures are expected by Sunday morning. Model guidance are converging on the timing of a Sunday afternoon through Monday weather system. This will again be a low density snow event with north-central Idaho and west-central Montana likely to see most of the snow, although, snow should again be widespread. Kootenai: --------------------------- 5000-7000 FT ---------------------------- Today Tonight Sat Cloud Cover 95% 60% 10% Hi/Lo Temps 12 to 21 1 to 6 8 to 17 Winds(mph) NE 13G25 N 10G21 NW 6 Precip Chc 70 0 0 Precip Type snow snow none Liquid Amt 0.08 0.00 0.00 Snow Ratio(SLR) 20:1 21:1 0 Snow Amt(in) 1-3 0 0 Snow Level 0 0 0
Avalanche conditions change for better or worse continually. Backcountry travelers should be prepared to assess current conditions for themselves, plan their routes of travel accordingly, and never travel alone. Backcountry travelers can reduce their exposure to avalanche hazards by utilizing timbered trails and ridge routes and by avoiding open and exposed terrain with slope angles of 30 degrees or more. Backcountry travelers should carry the necessary avalanche rescue equipment such as a shovel, avalanche probe or probe ski poles, a rescue beacon and a well-equipped first aid kit. For a recorded version of the Avalanche Advisory call (208)765-7323.
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