Currently in the Rockies good skiing can be found above 2100m with a supportive base, not a lot of wind effect and good travel conditions. Below 2100m the snowpack tapers quickly and access down low is still very thin. There are several ice crusts present in the lower snowpack including the prominent Nov 12 crust. These are not a problem yet but will be worth watching in the future to see how they behave. The cooler wetter conditions this summer have left the glaciers in a bit better condition than some recent years. Several groups have completed the Wapta Traverse already and snow depths of 130-180cm are present on many of the glaciers. Probe often and keep the rope tight while you scout things out, but so far things are looking good up high.
Temperatures in the Columbia Mountains have finally cooled down and with the recent snow good skiing conditions are present at and above treeline. Still waiting for things to fill in below treeline but it will come. Keep an eye on the Nov 12 layer is this region as well, hopefully it continues to bond well. Similar to the Rockies the glaciers are in pretty good shape for this time of year and if you are willing to walk some great turns can be had.
Ice climbers will be happy to know that many climbs are finally forming in the Rockies though thin is still the main theme and low elevation climbs are not yet there. There is enough loose snow up high that you can expect some good sluffing in gullies if the winds pick up. We have already had a couple very close calls with avalanches and climbers this season. Remember that bringing avalanche gear to your ice climb can make a big difference in the outcome of a slide.
Starting tomorrow Avalanche Canada will be producing regular avalanche bulletins as well as providing public reports on conditions through the MIN (Mountain Information Network) both of which can be accessed at www.avalanche.ca
You can also view numerous weather stations in real time throughout the National Parks and Kananaskis Country by following the links on the avalanche bulletins. These are a great trip planning tool to see what the winds and temperatures are doing up high as well as get an idea on precipitation amounts.
This will be the final MCR summary report of the summer and fall of 2016. We will start up the summaries again in May of 2017. In the meantime stay tuned in to the MCR for individual guide reports on skiing and ice climbing conditions throughout the winter. Thanks to all those who volunteer to help provide this service.
Enjoy the winter!
ACMG Mountain Guide