Conditions are currently suitable for both alpine climbing and skiing in the Coast Mountains, although you have to do your research and pick your objectives carefully to find out where the snow still remains. You can still expect to run into significant snow patches as low as 1300m (depending on aspect, tree cover and sun exposure), then continuous snow before you reach the alpine.
Continued warm weather this week put the brakes on all but the more serious efforts at getting out on skis. Exceptions were the high peaks, such as Mounts Columbia, Andromeda and Kitchener in the Rockies which have been seeing a fair bit of traffic. Casual outings are hindered by dry or isothermal slopes into the treeline elevations, although there is the standard May traffic at Parker's Ridge which has high road access at almost 2200 m.
Reports of surprisingly large treeline elevation slab avalanches were reported earlier in the week along the Icefield Parkway in Banff.
No really dramatic changes reported over the past week but the snowline continues to rise as do the rivers and the tick populations.
Forecast looks like a nice warm sunny weekend for the whole region. Still some corn snow skiing to be had but some walking will probably be required except along the Icefields parkway and some spots at Rogers Pass. Clear nights, early starts and careful terrain inspection and selection will be the key to getting some good safe turns in. In some ways unconsolidated moist snow at low elevations could be the biggest ski injury hazard.
This is the first Mountain Conditions Summary for 2018. Spring has finally arrived with some warm temperatures and lots of snowmelt below treeline. It is still winter/spring in most areas at Treeline and the Alpine and snow will remain above 2200m for a long while yet close to the Rockies and Columbia divides.
This past week's little storms left most their load west of the divide. Avalanche hazard has risen and in much of the Columbia Mountains it is now Considerable hazard in the alpine, potentially rising to High with the next storm by Sunday. If the forecast strong SW winds come to the Rockies the avalanche hazard will spike there too as wind slabs build mass. As we all know, Considerable hazard is when the accidents seem to happen most, and as Steve mentioned last week this is about the right time of the year for the first avalanche incident -- so don't let it happen to you this weekend.
Winter came in quick this week. In the Rockies many ice climbs have formed up really nicely, and people are getting after it. There are isolated wind slabs in the alpine that should be on peoples minds, and at treeline and above there is enough snow to avalanche, especially in that classic gully terrain that most ice climbs form in. Ski conditions have been reported as a mixed bag with some decent turns being found up high and a fairly supportive crust that is being dubbed the “Halloween “ crust in the mountain parks.
It's been a stormy week, as everyone knows whether they've been into the alpine or not (mostly not from the sounds of it), with precipitation amounts between 20-70 cm.
In the Columbia and Rockies winter-like conditions exist with a snowpack depth ranging from 50 up to 120+ cm above 2000 m. Below 2000 m coverage tapers off. In the Rockies, and especially east of the divide very cold temperatures down to -25 C and winds from the north have been reported.
This past week provided a mixed bag of early winter weather in the Rockies and Columbia mountains with steady but small doses of precipitation, cold overnight lows, and lots of wind to transport the fresh snow.
It's time to be carrying avalanche gear if you are considering heading into the alpine. Remember to do a quick beacon check and companion rescue refresher with your buddies before you head out. The recent tragedy in Montana is a sobering reminder to us all.
Winter has paid us another visit, but this time instead of couch surfing it looks like the old man is here to stay, in the alpine at least. Reports of cold temperatures (-5 to -10), dumps in the 30 cm range with snow levels reaching well below treeline and moderate winds form the N and E mean that the carefree days of alpine travel are over for now.