Helen Shoulder

Banff Yoho & Kootenay National Park

Kevin Thompson , Sunday 15th November, 2020 11:20AM

We rode the Helen Shoulder area, riding both the NE aspects and the west side. We dug a pit on the NE aspect, recording a 75 cm snow depth, though in a relatively well protected area at 2350m on a 37 degree slope. Air temperature was -3 and snow temperature was -8. There was 12cm of fresh snow on top of a minor crust of well consolidated snow. That layer was about 25 cm with a rock hard crust below that which went to ground with a layer of facets on the ground (or shitty little balls of ice as I like to officially call them and verified under the snow study kit). Our column had a failure on the first elbow tap where the consolidated snow crust met the rock hard layer, though it was a crack with no slide. Continuing on, there was no failure on the bottom layer. Actual riding conditions were variable. The wind was uncovering rocks on all directions on the ridge. Getting below the ridge there were still plenty of sharks hiding. Once into the trees, snow depth was more consistent and turns were pretty good, with stronger carves cutting into the consolidated layer and surfy turns staying pretty much on the storm snow layer. The west side at 2350m and higher was wind swept and shallow. Had to remove skis and boards to move along the ridge to get to a more protected pocket north of the burnt forest. First 50m or so heading down remained shallow. Two in our group avoided rocks, I managed to find one. However, once we were into the newer growth trees conditions were solid with nice turns and didn't find anything hiding under the snow. Very supportive, no signs of instability through the trees. The skin track up was pretty good, though shallow in a number of sections with rocks and roots visible. Couple creek crossings are not covered but flow was very minimal allowing you to step across with minimal contract on your skins. Unfortunately on the way down, some of the groups that went back down before us had demolished sections of it with some apparently choosing to boot pack rather than skin-ski back. Overall the area needs more snow to give you reliably good turns as well as to shore up the skin track. I'm glad I took my rock board and if you have an old board/skis, keep using them until we get a decent amount of new snow.

Snow conditions were: Wind affected. Weather conditions were: Windy, Sunny. We rode: Mellow slopes, Sunny slopes, Open trees. We avoided: Steep slopes, Convex slopes. Riding quality was ok.

Snowpack

We dug a pit on the NE aspect, recording a 75 cm snow depth, though in a relatively well protected area at 2350m on a 37 degree slope. Air temperature was -3 and snow temperature was -8. There was 12cm of fresh snow on top of a minor crust of well consolidated snow. That layer was about 25 cm with a rock hard crust below that which went to ground with a layer of facets on the ground (or shitty little balls of ice as I like to officially call them and verified under the snow study kit). Our column had a failure on the first elbow tap where the consolidated snow crust met the rock hard layer, though it was a crack with no slide. Continuing on, there was no failure on the bottom layer.

Source: Avalanche Canada MIN