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Snowbird, UT 3/13/05

PostPosted: Sun Mar 13, 2005 5:06 pm
by Admin
Sastrugi Central

What's worse than a refreeze following 3 weeks of warm, dry weather? A refreeze following 3 weeks of warm, dry weather accompanied by howling winds, that's what.

Winds honked across the Wasatch Front yesterday, gradually increasing in intensity throughout the day (the Snowbird Tram ran early in the day yesterday, but eventually halted operation due to the westerly winds). Overnight temps returned to more seasonable levels for today, so what we had was refrozen crud on western aspects and any aspect with a southerly component, and wind-scoured styrofoam sastrugi on the best of the northerly aspects. Groomers were rock-hard and fast. In sum, it was a disappointing day snow surface-wise.

But there's still plenty of it, and the next chance for significant precipitation is next weekend. A foot of new will make things primo again. And the sky was the clearest that I've ever seen here, so today was ideal for just being out in the mountains and taking pictures -- the views were stupendous, as you can see for yourself below.

Most locals stayed home today, but with friends visiting (Liftlines user Sharon and her friend Pam, along with Sharon's local friend Amy) I went up canyon anyway. We spent the day trying to find the most skiable lines. Our first effort was one of the best successes, taking Road to Provo and then traversing, way, way out to a line directly below West Twin. There we encountered heavily wind-scoured, yet edgeable snow, although the potential for a long slide if you blew it was huge.

At the time, we were frustrated by the snow on that run, but it turned out to be one of the best runs of the day. Our second effort was out to the Bookends in Mineral Basin, and amazingly the wind erased all evidence of parts of the traverse line, so we were forced to hang on by only our narrow metal edges to the hard, smooth snow. The Bookends run itself was reiminscent of our line below West Twin.

We kept hoping that the south-facing aspects in Mineral Basin would soften in the sun. They never did. In fact, what slight softening occurred before lunch time had already set back up by early afternoon. Primrose Path was edgeable, but we didn't have the cajones to drop into any of the steeper north-facing lines in Peruvian Cirque. A diversion into one of my favorite steep tree lines off Dalton's Draw left me slightly spooked, as I pictured the potential for a slide and subsequent pinball through the trees if I blew a turn.

I called it a day by 2:30 pm after 15,000 verts. Snow cover is hardly the problem, and again, all it will take is 1 storm to return conditions to a wonderful state.

re: Snowbird, UT 3/13/05

PostPosted: Sun Mar 13, 2005 8:21 pm
by Tony Crocker
I would have expected Upper Silver Fox, Upper Primrose, the Upper Cirque chutes and the north facing lines on Gad 2 like Gadzooks, STH and the nearby trees to still have dry winter snow. Getting there might not have been easy. I just found out that Al Solish fell and dislocated his shoulder on the windswept path between Hidden Peak and the top of Little Cloud.

By my experience Snowbird rarely has the chronic winds of Mammoth. And even at Mammoth there is usually somewhere leeward of the winds. I would definitely have checked out the tree shots on Gad 2.

Re: re: Snowbird, UT 3/13/05

PostPosted: Sun Mar 13, 2005 8:49 pm
by Admin
Tony Crocker wrote:I would have expected Upper Silver Fox, Upper Primrose, the Upper Cirque chutes and the north facing lines on Gad 2 like Gadzooks, STH and the nearby trees to still have dry winter snow. Getting there might not have been easy. I just found out that Al Solish fell and dislocated his shoulder on the windswept path between Hidden Peak and the top of Little Cloud.

By my experience Snowbird rarely has the chronic winds of Mammoth. And even at Mammoth there is usually somewhere leeward of the winds. I would definitely have checked out the tree shots on Gad 2.


We did -- they were horrid, refrozen bumps. Black Forest was OK simply because it was low-angle. Even that open slot to skier's right of Dalton's was scary stuff - that's where I was afraid of a slide for life towards pinballing through trees below.

The other spots you mentioned were just too hammered by the wind, scoured down to hardpack.

Marc C stayed home this morning based on the situation, which he called "the Wasatch equivalent of a Northeast rain-freeze cycle." Interestingly, over the past couple of hours the wind has really picked up here in the SL Valley and snow squalls have appeared over the mountains. They're moving north to south on radar. It's unclear if this is just a tease, or if they'll really drop anything. The Sunday storm from three weeks ago was forecast to be 3" or less, but left "17 inches of partly cloudy." Maybe this will be a surprise, too?

Wish Al a speedy recovery for me!

re: Snowbird, UT 3/13/05

PostPosted: Sun Mar 13, 2005 9:24 pm
by pam
Yo Guido!
How come you didn't post any pictures of the hot chicks you were skiing with today? Not even the one I tooki of you & list abused Sharon!! What's up with that?

Re: re: Snowbird, UT 3/13/05

PostPosted: Sun Mar 13, 2005 9:35 pm
by Admin
pam wrote:Yo Guido!
How come you didn't post any pictures of the hot chicks you were skiing with today? Not even the one I tooki of you & list abused Sharon!! What's up with that?


Well, that one you took of LASharon & me is the only one that I have with the hot chicks of the day. It's below.

re: Snowbird, UT 3/13/05

PostPosted: Mon Mar 14, 2005 9:38 am
by Admin
As if to validate my report, here are the comments from yesterday and today's Utah avi report:

Sunday 13 Mar 05:

Current Conditions:
A strong cold front swept through overnight, plunging temperatures into the single digits and mid-teens, and those looking for corn may want to look at lower elevations and take a book while waiting for things to soften. The northwest winds slacked off from yesterday?s blustery 30-45mph speeds to a more reasonable 15-20mph and that trend should continue throughout the day. Before heading out today, throw a quick file across those edges and then take a hard look at your dental insurance.



Monday 14 Mar 05:

Current Conditions:
It must be bad out there. No one even called or emailed to complain about the conditions, so it?s just me and the crickets down here at the office. In case there are a couple diehards still out there, skies are clear and temperatures above 9000? are in the single digits. Most areas picked up a trace to two last night, with the orographically-favored Park City mountains receiving 2-4?. Winds are less than 15mph out of the northeast.

Avalanche Conditions:
If you?re out scratching around on the dust on crust today, watch for sluffing of the new snow once it?s activated by the sun. Otherwise, a slide for life on the slick crusts may be the only other problem to keep in check.

re: Snowbird, UT 3/13/05

PostPosted: Mon Mar 14, 2005 1:48 pm
by Tony Crocker
Once you've been out there awhile, it will be interesting to see how common this condition is.

What I do know is that Utah is the warmest region of the Rockies. The prevailing impression is that the snow comes in big dumps, followed by sustained clear weather. The monthly snow data does not support that impression. Volatility of monthly snowfall in the Wasatch is fairly low, whereas the high volatilities in the Sierra do support a similar impression there.

A warm-up to spring conditions followed by cold and clear I would think is rare, especially in March. I think you got another one on a January visit 3 years ago. Nearly all of my trips have been in March and I've never seen it. The warm-up and spring transition I see frequently, but it's generally broken up by the next snowstorm.

Re: re: Snowbird, UT 3/13/05

PostPosted: Mon Mar 14, 2005 2:38 pm
by Admin
Tony Crocker wrote:I think you got another one on a January visit 3 years ago.


Correct you are. That one involved r**n to above 9k feet. However, surface conditions on that trip were more skiable than they were yesterday.

re: Snowbird, UT 3/13/05

PostPosted: Mon Mar 14, 2005 3:49 pm
by jamesdeluxe
A belated thank-you to Marc for taking all the lousy winter weather away from the East when he moved to SLC.

The prevailing impression is that the snow comes in big dumps, followed by sustained clear weather. The monthly snow data does not support that impression. Volatility of monthly snowfall in the Wasatch is fairly low, whereas the high volatilities in the Sierra do support a similar impression there.


Apologies if it sounds like I'm going negative, but I'm not sure what Tony Crocker going on about historical snow and weather models contributes to these discussions... in this case, Marc's unpleasant day in LCC. Sounded to me like Marc just wanted to (justifiably) vent.

Who would guess that the northeast would have five straight weeks of great late season skiing? Who would believe that (according to a friend on another board) Solitude would have honest-to-goodness ice yesterday? Guess what: bad ski weather happens, even in the Cottonwoods.

Re: re: Snowbird, UT 3/13/05

PostPosted: Mon Mar 14, 2005 4:40 pm
by Admin
jamesdeluxe wrote:A belated thank-you to Marc for taking all the lousy winter weather away from the East when he moved to SLC.


Hey, I'm just happy to do what I can to help. :wink:

jamesdeluxe wrote:Sounded to me like Marc just wanted to (justifiably) vent.


Nah, not really. It was a beautiful day to be outside in the mountains, I just didn't want to sugar-coat the conditions. No venting required. I'm apparently rapidly becoming a spoiled local.
:-D

re: Snowbird, UT 3/13/05

PostPosted: Mon Mar 14, 2005 5:28 pm
by Kevin Stojda
I guess that reading about icy conditions at Snowbird really makes me appreciate the 8" of powder at Berkshire East on Saturday. It just does not want to stop snowing in the east lately, and even here on Long Island we still have 6" of snowcover on the ground.

It's really sad to see the Northwest so extremely dry, summer skiing at Timberline will be very meager this year.

Re: re: Snowbird, UT 3/13/05

PostPosted: Tue Mar 15, 2005 2:00 am
by J.Spin
jamesdeluxe wrote:Who would believe that (according to a friend on another board) Solitude would have honest-to-goodness ice yesterday? Guess what: bad ski weather happens, even in the Cottonwoods.


That?s so true. In my experience, you can get some pretty crappy skiing in the Cottonwoods (just like anywhere). In four multi-day trips to Utah (~16 days total), I've had only 2 days that I would qualify as good (not "great" by the way) based on my personal scale from growing up in northern Vermont. One was Feb 5th, 1999 at Alta where there was about a foot of fresh snow. The skiing was fun, but the snow was surprisingly heavy (~9% H2O) compared to the powder I had just been skiing back home in Vermont. The other good day was January 12th of this year at Snowbird, where they had received 1-2 feet of snow over the previous couple of days. The skiing that day (Wednesday) was good, but by Thursday it was already pretty marginal simply due to skier traffic. Of course, these were the good days. The rest of my Utah days have been an experience in negotiating around hard pack and misshapen bumps in search of good snow (save one day of spring skiing at Deer Valley last season). As I recall, Tony's data show that the Cottonwood Canyons are just about tops in terms of chances for fresh powder, but they're probably only marginally better than a lot of other places, and far from a safe bet.

Re: re: Snowbird, UT 3/13/05

PostPosted: Tue Mar 15, 2005 6:18 am
by jamesdeluxe
Admin wrote: I'm apparently rapidly becoming a spoiled local.
:-D


Ah... an issue that hasn't been adequately addressed! Selling out FTO's hard-earned East Coast roots by moving west for the "easy powder" and top-to-bottom high-speed lifts at Alta/Snowbird: a true Faustian pact!
:wink:

Re: re: Snowbird, UT 3/13/05

PostPosted: Tue Mar 15, 2005 8:14 am
by Admin
jamesdeluxe wrote:
Admin wrote: I'm apparently rapidly becoming a spoiled local.
:-D


Ah... an issue that hasn't been adequately addressed! Selling out FTO's hard-earned East Coast roots by moving west for the "easy powder" and top-to-bottom high-speed lifts at Alta/Snowbird: a true Faustian pact!
:wink:


Hmmmm, let's see now...500 inches per year, 23 minutes from my door, yet warm and sunny most of the time here at home. I've shoveled once since late January (but I didn't really need to bother since the driveway would've melted out by noon), and in February I often buzzed around without even a jacket on. It's a sale of my soul that I can learn to live with. :lol:

BTW, they're now saying that a system with plenty of moisture may drop down from Idaho tomorrow night. [-o<

re: Snowbird, UT 3/13/05

PostPosted: Tue Mar 15, 2005 1:54 pm
by Tony Crocker
It is mildly amusing to see the snow move from West to East shortly after Marc moved from Albany to SLC. But there is no doubt in my mind that he will have the last laugh. :lol:

In my snow stats the percentage of 90-inch months serves as a surrogate for the chance of seeing decent powder in a week. That percentage is still only in the 40% range for the Cottonwood Canyons. That's why we get most of our best powder days hitting local areas on short notice rather than on advance planned destination trips. I like Marc's chances as a SLC local.