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Saturday, March 2, 2013

Snow Report March 1, 2013


I normally avoid skiing when it rains, but in this case, I wanted to assess the snowpack after the big Pineapple Express (atmospheric river) rolled through Thursday-Friday. Besides, the NWS issued special avalanche warnings, so that sealed it for me! Warm temps and sub-tropical moisture were still in evidence as I made my way out to Big 4--a delightful ski despite the moderate rain falling. The ski conditions were actually great--a nice fast track that provided perfect kick-and-glide throughout the day.

With the snow level at about 6,000 feet, I was concerned that the warm rain would significantly erode the snowpack, and percolate down to strata that would cause "premature" removal down to climax levels. To my surprise, another couple of feet of snow has fallen in the past 10 days, so instead of a smaller snowpack, it was actually much deeper than last week, even down in the valley. This new snow effectively absorbed all of the rain, and also presented a nice stratification layer that protected the base snowpack, with expected avalanches sweeping off only the top
layer(s) of snow.
That's not to say there were no big avalanches. On the contrary, Big 4 had four major events in the three hours I was there. Even from more than a mile away, the sound was impressive, the roar filling the valley. I took the trail to Big 4 to film some of the action, but as I reached the edge of the forest, it became very clear that this was too close, and I was in the danger zone. Fresh avalanche debris was only about 50 meters distant! There is now more than 1.5 meters of snow on the ground at the picnic area at Big 4 (1,800' elevation). Check out these pics:



The tip of my ski pole is on the surface of the picnic table, and is 1.4 meters long.


This is from the edge of the woods. All my little hairs were on end--my senses demanding I leave NOW. The waterfalls were glorious.



It was great to see the Stilly at flood. It was really blazing, but was not up in the woods. The rip-rap bank armoring that supports the hiking bridge was not being hammered too bad. It was spooky crossing the bridges, as the snowpack was at the top level of the railings, meaning any slip, misstep or cave-in of the snow would be a bad thing.

The snowpack is doing great. Happy fish, happy farmers, and happy glaciers. A couple of weeks until the Equinox. Sure hope we pile on many more layers before the season turns and the melt-down starts. Oh, can't wait to get out to Cascade River and watch the BIG avalanches...

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