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Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Snow report, early March 2012

Tom Hammond reports:
Sorry I've been so out of contact--too busy skiing and working and hiking and working, and...
Anyway, here's what I have:
I made it out skiing for the fifth (or sixth?) time this winter--it's been a month since my last trip. The month of February has been more "normal" in that the storm systems have been more regular--moving through about every third or fourth day, and lasting a couple of days at a time. Snow levels have been pretty regular too, usually around 3,500 feet, bouncing to 5,000 feet occasionally, and down to sea-level a bit too. The bottom line is that this has been a great winter to date--plenty of snow, and prodigious amounts as low as 2,000 feet.
This photo was taken in early Feb:

and this one taken March 2:

This is Big4 picnic area, about 1,900' elevation (yes, those are picnic tables). Water content is variable, and as I noted in early Feb (private email), there are significant strata throughout the snowpack. There is at least one more significant layer that fell/formed in Feb--this one more than a half-meter of snow that was deposed with 50-plus mph winds--an extremely dangerous deposition. Now another half-meter has fallen on top of that, so LOOK OUT. This could/should be a great year for avalanches (unless you are involved in one as more than a spectator)! If the Spring progresses "normally" (cool to mild, snow through April and in to May at elevations at/around 5,000 feet) we should see great mass-balance numbers for the glaciers of the North Cascades again this year. Indeed, all things being equal, this may be the best two year stretch in decades for snowpack/glaciers/water supplies...
Saw a couple of Ouzels--what impressive and wonderful birds. To see them diving in to rushing, ice cold waters and then popping out a few moments later; calmly perching on low, wet rocks really brought home for me just how tough these little creatures are. The mighty Grizzly? Mountain goats? Soaring eagles? I think my favorite is our little friend The Dipper. :-)
Oh, should also note I saw only a dozen or so people, all snowshoeing or skiing. A couple of dogs, and no snowmobiles. More often than not over the past 30 years, there has been little or no snow here throughout the winter. This last photo is how I like to see roads, in this case, the Mountain Loop "Highway"--what a great day of skiing!

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