Observation – 3/12/2014 – Skookoleel Peak area, Whitefish Range

Location: West of Skookoleel, Shady Grove, Lakalaho

Activity: Skiing

Snowpack Observations:

Toured to 6,745 west of the Skook ridge, descended to the Lakalaho pond, climbed back to 6,745 and descended Shady Grove. About 4″ of new, dry snow on an ice crust. The crust was 2 ” thick and firm and was present on all aspects and elevations that I skied. I had to stomp it with my boot to break it. Shaded snow was dry, any snow exposed to the sun was either zipper crust {above 6,000 ft} or mush {below 5,800 ft}. The shaded snow was pleasant skiing. I saw no avalanche activity. Side hill climbing was difficult because the new snow sloughed easily. I would have used ski crampons if I would have remembered to bring them.

 

Observation – 3/8/2014 – Canyon Creek, Whitefish Range

Observer: Pete Costain
Date: 3/8/2014
Activity: Skiing

Dug a couple pits on NNW aspect @ 6000 ft elevation, one 25 degree slope and one 38-40 degree slope. Here’s the beta on the steeper one. Dug past the January faceted crust mess at 160 cm to a total of 180cm depth. Soft slab storm layer 10-15cm down mildly reactive on some graupel. Then two layers of concern: a 4 finger storm slab 40 cm down that was ECTN but CT16 Q1 and then at 60-70 cm down another layer (probably beginning of this latest storm) that was also ECTN but CT 18 Q1. Way down at 160 cm is the biggest concern with the old facets and crusts dissipating but still super obvious. ECTN but CT 25 or so. I jumped hard above the steeper pit afterwards and was able to get the 40 cm layer to break off and step down to the 60 cm layer. Generally north slopes seem to be pretty glued together with no results on the ECTs but if something were to happen it could be big. I guess we know we will be in a low prob / high consequence scene for a while. Skiing was pretty good with Friday night’s cooler temps drying out the stiff storm surface snow. Surfy and fast turns. Looking at Skook across the canyon there didn’t appear to be any natural releases today.

2013-2014 Incidents

2/25/2014 – Avalanche Incident – Canyon Creek, Whitefish Range

2/22/2014 – Avalanche Incident – McGinnis Creek (Depuy Creek ), Whitefish Range

2/22/2014 – Avalanche Incident (Fatality) – Spar Peak, Cabinet Range (Kootenai National Forest advisory area)

2/15/2014 – Avalanche Incident – Canyon Creek, Whitefish Range

12/14/2013 – Avalanche Incident – Picnic Notch, Noisy Basin, Swan Range

12/8/13 – Avalanche Incident – Noisy Basin, Swan Range

 

Observation – 2/26/2014 – Lewis Range

 

FLATHEAD AVALANCHE CENTER

Observer Information

 

Date: 2-26-14

Time: 1330

Name: Jason Griswold, Brett Timm

 

DAILY FIELD WEATHER SUMMARY

 

ZONE:

MT RANGE: Lewis

ELEV. RANGE: 2000 M

 

SKY

PRECIP

Type/Rate

Temperature

RIDGETOP WIND (mph) (actual or est)

HN24  est @ Elev.

HS est @ Elev.

Trailbreaking/Riding Conditons

Skiing/Riding Quality

AM

PM

AM

PM

Hi

Low

Speed

Dir

0

255 cm

25 cm ski pen

Very good below ridgetops

clear

clear

NO

NO

 

 

0

 

                               

 

Weather Comments

q  SKY: Cloud cover, Trend, Timing                Clear/sunny all day, cold 5 degrees F at 2000 M

 

q  PRECIP: Type/rate, Accumulation               NO

 

q  WIND: speed/direction/blowing snow          Calm for duration of trip

 

SNOWPACK AND AVALANCHE FACTORS

q  SNOW SURFACE: (crusts, soft snow, hard snow, dry, wet, sfc hoar)     

Windblown above treeline/opennings.   Powder in protected areas (trees)

q Very slight surface hoar observed.

 

q  LAYERS OF CONCERN?  

                     1:  While not reactive in test, the layer of facets approx. 20 cm’s below the surface.  Significant temp gradient encouraging  more development

                     2:  Layer of facets (which appear to be rounding) and graupel 60 cms from surface.                                                                 

                     3:  Layer of facets (which appear to be rounding) 70 cms  from surface.

                     4. While not reactive in tests layer of facets (which appear to be rounding) 130 cms from surface.

 

q  RECENT AVALANCHE ACTIVITY/OBSERVATIONS           

Three recent slides observed all on east aspects below cornices/ridgetops.  All appear to be natural releases probably during the last storm cycle (partially covered) or wind deposition after release.

 

q  STABILITY TEST?

 

CT19 Q1 60cms down,

CT23 Q1 70 cms down. 

Both results required assistance to fall into pit but were planar.  Of note the 60 cm down result produced a small “poof” of fine snow particles on the front and sidewall of test column which we attributed to a collapse. 

 

ECTN21 ( 25 cms from surface)

ECTP27 (60 cms from surface)

Of Note the same “poof” of fine snow particles was observed along the entire face of the column.  The block didn’t slide off on its own but did with minimal force.  (pit conducted in 27 degree slope)

No reaction on the layer 130 cms from the surface but it did slide off after conclusion of test with moderate shovel force. (smooth planar).

 

 

 

q  COMMENTS:

 

We skied pretty tight trees to the bottom.  Skiing was good and no signs of collapsing observed or felt.  The “poof” we observed in tests was so slight I don’t believe it could be felt underfoot but it is definitely there.  North and easterly winds have been transporting snow in opposite direction of prevailing winds for some time, which is evident on all open terrain above valley bottoms.    Definitely different conditions.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Avalanche Observations        None

NUM

SIZE

LOC

TRIGGER

 

TYPE

INC

ASP

ELEV

COMMENTS:

(Est. Depth, Width, Failure Layer, Timing)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Observation – 2/26/2014 – John F. Stevens Canyon

 

FLATHEAD AVALANCHE CENTER

Observer Information

 

Date: Wed Feb 26

Time:All Day

Name: Brad Lamson

 

DAILY FIELD WEATHER SUMMARY

 

ZONE: John F Stevens Canyon

MT RANGE: Flathead

ELEV. RANGE:4000’ – 7500’

 

SKY

PRECIP

Type/Rate

Temperature

RIDGETOP WIND (mph) (actual or est)

HN24  est @ Elev.

HS est @ Elev.

Trailbreaking/Riding Conditons

Skiing/Riding Quality

AM

PM

AM

PM

Hi

Low

Speed

Dir

N/A

330cm @7000 E Aspect

Poor to Good

Poor to Excellent

Clear

Scattered

Nil

Nil

6F

30F

Calm-Light

Westerly

                               

 

Weather Comments

q  SKY: Cloud cover, Trend, Timing     Clear in the AM with scattered, alto stratus in the late afternoon.

 

q  PRECIP: Type/rate, Accumulation     None

 

q  WIND: speed/direction/blowing snow     Calm to Light, Westerly

 

SNOWPACK AND AVALANCHE FACTORS

q  SNOW SURFACE: (crusts, soft snow, hard snow, dry, wet, sfc hoar)   East, South through West aspects, from 7500’ down to valley bottoms received intense solar warming, resulting a 1cm crust.  North and East aspects remained soft with developing surface hoar up to 5mm.

 

q  LAYERS OF CONCERN? Westerly aspects still harbored several distinct crust/facet layers from early January and the few sunny warm spells we’ve had since then.  On Easterly and Northern aspects we found that the snow pack was made up of density layer changes.  On SE aspect we found the mentioned sun crust, but it was breaking down.  Below 5500’ all aspects had a crust, melt freeze from the rain, warm temps.

 

q  RECENT AVALANCHE ACTIVITY/OBSERVATIONS We observed several large avalanches on South/East through North aspects.  These were all between 6000-7000’, wind loaded slopes, propagated extensively through treed terrain, with large deposition areas (deep, 10’+)  These looked to have released (around the 19th/20th, as they were filled from the last storm) on the early January crust/facet combo or the a density layer change on Northerly aspects.

 

q  STABILITY TEST?  Yes, ECT’s.  All the results were in the hard range, with no propagation.  Thinking there is a bit of a sense of false security there.

 

q  COMMENTS:  Still going out there with a big question mark dangling out front, like a carrot on a stick.  Just be observant and use all those tools you’ve acquired from those avalanche education and awareness classes. The turns were great on North/East aspect sand the previous weeks North wind didn’t lay waste to the soft snow.  Westerly aspects however are history,  half a run was enough, the surface was wet and sticky in the exposed areas and crusty in the shade, behind the trees…  Skinning up was a great work out though, 10 pounds of additional snow sticking to your skis and skins sealed the deal on the fun factor of “3”!  Even though the solar radiation was strong, air temp remained below 30.

 

q  Don’t forget to attend the FAC Community Avalanche Awareness event on March 6, at the Moose Lodge.  See the FAC event calendar for more info.

  

 

 

Avalanche Observations        None

NUM

SIZE

LOC

TRIGGER

 

TYPE

INC

ASP

ELEV

COMMENTS:

(Est. Depth, Width, Failure Layer, Timing)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 Top viewOverview from the SouthHoleFlank_CrownFilled in crown from last storm

Observation – 2/27/2014 – John F. Stevens Canyon

 

BNSF RAILWAY AVALANCHE SAFETY

VOLUNTARY FIELD OBSERVATIONS

(406) 863-0476 Email: richard.steiner@bnsf.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

DATE

SUBMITTED:

TIME SUBMITTED:

OBSERVATION LOCATION

OBSERVATION

DATE:

SUBMITTED BY:

2/27/2014

        1530

Shed  7 West

2/27/2014

Dundas

GENERAL INFORMATION:

 

The focus of today’s tour was to evaluate snowpack structure and conduct snow profile/ stability observations at a mid-elevation starting zone in the vicinity of recent avalanche activity. To do this, we initially toured up the lower Shed 7 west path before completing our climb in the trees lookers left of the path.  T rail breaking was relatively easy with minimal ski penetration.  Surface snow was wind affected and became denser as the day progressed due to warm air temps.  There was occasional cracking underneath our skis but no shooting cracks or audible failures observed.

WEATHER OBSERVATIONS:

 

Partly cloudy skies throughout the day with calm to light west winds and air temperatures hovering around freezing at the Canyon floor and at our profile location~ located at 5,788 feet elevation.  There was no wind transport occurring during our tour. 

SNOWPACK OBSERVATIONS:

 

Conducted a full profile on a 25 degree east aspect (900) on the lookers left of Shed 7West (5,788 ft). Profile was 172 cm in height.

 

  • The upper 32 cm of this profile was recent snow that averaged F in hardness.  This sat on top of a 1cm pencil hard melt freeze crust.  Beneath the crust were 33 cm of facets and mixed forms which sat on top of a 1F hard decomposing crust which was 2 cm thick.  This lower crust was formed in mid-January and was the bed surface for the recent mid elevation avalanche activity in Shed 7 west.   The facets above the lower crust were our greatest layer of concern in this profile.  

 

·         A thin layer of F hard facets was immediately below the above mentioned crust.  Below the facets the remaining 98 cm of the pack was comprised of facets, mixed forms and depth hoar.  All of the layers in the lower 98 cm were gaining strength and averaged 1F- hardness.

 

  • Stability Tests:                                                                                                                                         
  •   -ECTP 19 & 22 Q2@ 138.  This was immediately below the upper 1 cm crust.                                                                                                                                                                                                                      
  • ECTP 23 & 25 Q2 @ 113                                                                                                                                                                         

 

  • The only significant T gradient in the snowpack was located in the top 20 cm. 

AVALANCHE OBSERVATIONS:

 

No avalanche activity observed in the program area today.

 

BNSF AVALANCHE SAFETY FIELD OBSERVATIONS SUBMITTED TO FLATHEAD AVALANCHE CENTER AND GLACIER NATIONAL PARK ARE BEING PROVIDEDED IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE TERMS AND CONDITIONS SPECIFIED GLACIER NATIONAL PARK SPECIAL USE PERMIT.  

 

THESE OBSERVATIONS REPRESENT SITE SPECIFIC INFORMATION INTENDED FOR THE BNSF AVALANCHE SAFETY PROGRAM AND IN NO WAY ARE TO BE CONSTRUED AS A PUBLIC/ RECREATION AVALANCHE FORECAST. 

 

2_27_14_Shed 7 west

Snow Profile from 2/27/2014

Observation – 2/24/2014 – Lewis Range, Southern Glacier Park

From: Mark Ambre
Date: 2/24/14
Time: 14:30
Location: Lewis Range, Southern Glacier Park
Activity: Skiing

Snowpack Observations:
Toured from 4400′ to 8500′ on W/SW facing treed terrain in the Ole Creek drainage on Monday.  Skies were clear before noon, then partly cloudy, with high, thin clouds to the west.  Temps climbed from an am low at 4400′ near -10 to 15 degrees F at 15:00 at the same elevation.  Wind was calm, except at the ridge above 8000′, where it was light from the N/NW  No current wind transport was observed.  Snow ghosted trees had recent rime deposits on nearly every side, with the most recent facing NE.
No whumpfing or shooting cracks observed.  Did encounter some hollow-sounding snow at a low-angle wind-scoured ridgetop location with a shallow snowpack that had been recently wind-loaded by NE winds.
Avalance obs: 
Observed a crown from a recent natural avalanche on a 50 degree S-facing slope on Mount St. Nicholas below a rocky cliff band at about 8000′. Estimated average depth 50 cm, width 50 meters.  Could not see debris.  Observed numerous old partially snowed-in crowns on steep S-facing slopes at elevations between 6800′ and 8300′.  These seemed to have run on the Jan crust/facet interface.

Did a test profile at 14:30 at 6900′ on a W/SW facing 35 degree slope.  Temp: 5 degrees F.  Found the January crust 100cm from the surface, with facets above and below.  Another layer of concern existed  50 cm from the surface, where a thin layer of F hardness facets existed over  a pencil hardness layer (decomposing crust?)  The surface 25 cm F hardness  new snow sat over a few centimeters of graupel. 
Tests:  2x CTM’s with Q1 shears on the Jan crust at 100cm from surface.

No failure or propagation in ECT.  (But did get failure and propagation  across the column at 100 cm from surface with a light kick from above with my ski boot…)

Skied in the trees on slopes up to 38 degrees without incident.  Below about 5500′, the surface 20-25 cm seemed more slabby, with minor cracks appearing around turns.

From 2/25/2014: Flattop Mountain, Marias Pass, Flathead Range
Observed a crown on a N-facing 35+degree slope on Flattop. Estimated crown height: 80cm. Estimated width: 50 meters. Could not see debris. Trigger: unknown. (natural?)

Observation – 2/25/2014 – Skook Chutes Avalanche, Whitefish Range

Flathead Avalanche Center staff will be headed out to check this avalanche tomorrow. Thanks to those involved for providing this information.
Special Forecaster Note: We are currently dealing with unusual conditions and a dangerous and tricky snowpack. We have a persistent slab problem with weak snow sitting on top of a crust from late January. This layer is the cause of numerous human triggered and natural avalanches over the past 10 days, and it is not going away any time soon. With potentially strong incoming solar radiation and above freezing temperatures tomorrow, conditions could deteriorate quickly. The next scheduled advisory is tomorrow 2/26/2014.

At 15:00 on 2/25/14 I was part of a three person snowboarding group that was caught in an avalanche in the Canyon Creek area in the Whitefish Range. At 14:00 we hiked Flower Point and dug a pit on a ENE Aspect, 35 degree slope. We found a weak layer about 50cm down from the surface. Our stability tests showed CT24Q3, ECTP22Q3. We rode the ridge out toward Banana Chutes and dropped into the Canyon approximately 300yds skiers right of Banana Chutes. We reached the bottom, quickly rechecked our beacons and began hiking out back to chair 7. At 15:00, just as we were reaching the top of the hike out, we heard a boom and an avalanche descended on us from the opposite face we rode (Skookoleel ridge, fiberglass hill). The avalanche missed me by about 20 feet but caught the other two members of my party. One person was swept off his feet but was able to swim out of it and was not buried. The second person was also swept off his feet and was buried with only his head and one arm sticking out. We were able to quickly locate and dig this person out. No one in our group was seriously injured and we were all wearing beacons and had shovels and probes. I would roughly estimate the naturaly caused avalanche was approx. 2 feet deep at the crown, 900 feet wide and ran about 1200 feet.

Canyon Creek, Skook Chutes natural avalanche crown. 2/25/2014.

Canyon Creek, Skook Chutes natural avalanche crown. 2/25/2014.

 

Canyon Creek, Skook Chutes natural avalanche debris on road. 2/25/2014.

Canyon Creek, Skook Chutes natural avalanche debris on road. 2/25/2014.

 

Canyon Creek, Skook Chutes natural avalanche debris on road. 2/25/2014.

Canyon Creek, Skook Chutes natural avalanche debris on road. 2/25/2014.

 

Canyon Creek, Skook Chutes natural avalanche debris on road. 2/25/2014.

Canyon Creek, Skook Chutes natural avalanche debris on road. 2/25/2014.

Observation – 2/25/2014 – northern Flathead Range

 

 

 

Observer Information

Date: 2-25-14

Time:

Name:

DAILY FIELD WEATHER SUMMARY

ZONE:

MT RANGE: flathead

ELEV. RANGE:3800-6800

SKY

PRECIP

Type/Rate

Temperature

RIDGETOP WIND (mph) (actual or est)

HN24 est @ Elev.

HS est @ Elev.

Trailbreaking/Riding Conditions

Skiing/Riding Quality

AM

PM

AM

PM

Hi

Low

Speed

Dir

 

 

moderate

Great

clear

 

 

 

10

 

0-2 mph

sw

                             

 

Weather Comments

SKY: Cloud cover, Trend, Timing-No Clouds

 

PRECIP: Type/rate, Accumulation- No

 

WIND: speed/direction/blowing snow-very light sw wind

 

SNOWPACK AND AVALANCHE FACTORS

SNOW SURFACE: (crusts, soft snow, hard snow, dry, wet, sfc hoar)powder, with melt freeze crust forming on south aspects throughout elevation range

 

LAYERS OF CONCERN? 50 cm’s down, facets, lots of airspace and 120 cm’s down transition to loose snow on a light crust.At lower elevations, 80 cm’s down found a rain crust from 2 weeks ago

 

RECENT AVALANCHE ACTIVITY/OBSERVATIONS None – no collapsing or cracking. Didn’t notice any avalanches on adjacent slopes.

STABILITY TEST? 2 hasty pits, 1 CT on SE slope-6200 ft., 1 ECT on North aspect 6300 ft.

 

COMMENTS:CT 26 Q2 @ 120 cm from surface x2.ECTP 28 Q3 @ 125cm from surface on N. 35 degree slopes.~290 cm snowpack

 

Observation – 2/25/2014 – Hellroaring Peak, Whitefish Range

Submitted by: Adam Clark

Today I went looking for some “interesting” snow that we could possibly show to our upcoming Big Mountain Ski Patrol Level 2 Avalanche Class. It was a clear, bluebird day, with calm winds and temps in the 20’s, though it felt much warmer in the brilliant sunshine!

On a SE facing slope at about 6300′ on Hellroaring Peak I definitely found some interesting and little spooky snow. A 55 cm slab consisting mostly of dense, old windslab, except for the top 15 cm, which was light powder. Below this was a facet/crust/facet combo (see photos and pit profile). The facets around this ice crust were fairly large, up to 2 mm. They were starting to round and some bonding had occured between grains. But as soon as I touched these facet layers, the grains just poured out of the pit wall like sugar.

This layer took a lot of force to fail (ECTP 22 & 26), but when it finally did, it propagated across the extended column with an audible “pop”.

Seems like this ice crust with facets is lurking on several slopes with southern aspects in the Whitefish Range.

 

Hellroaring_Pk_2-25-14 Hellroaring_Pk_pit_profile