January 16, 2019
Since Friday January 11, we’ve enjoyed a spell of generally nice weather in the mountains. This allowed for some great views, enjoyable outings, and lots of snow observations. A more active weather pattern beginning Thursday January 17th will bring this nice weather to a close.
During this time period, the snow surfaces around the area have changed dramatically. This forms the foundation for a few current trends we are seeing in the mountains.
New Snow Problems
Reports from around the area indicate a wide variety of snow surface conditions prior to new snow on January 17th. We’ve heard about breakable crust, very icy surfaces, sugar facets, surface hoar, and rime. What snow surface you encounter can depend on aspect, elevations, and general location.
As a series of winter storms impact the area, how will the new snow bond to the old snow surface. This can be tricky to predict. As the snow starts to pile up make lots of shallow snow observations. Shovel tilt test, hand shears, and small slope test can all help you track how the new snow is bonding to the old snow at different aspects and elevations. Stop and take a look at where the snow is failing. Do you see large grains of snow? Do they look like feathers? Do the act like sugar? How far below the current snow surface are they?
Old Snow Problems
There are still lingering persistent weak layers in the eastern zones of the cascades. You are most likely to find weak older snow in areas further east from the Cascade crest where snowpacks are shallower, more variable, and generally weaker. In some locations weak snow near the ground can still be found. These basal facets have hung around all season. The only way to gain information about these old persistent weak layers is to get out your shovel and dig. Because of the size of our forecast zones and the variability in the snowpack, it's important to make snow observations as you travel. We’ll keep watching these old layers, but let us know what you see
while you are in the mountains.