Alpine conditions are currently changing in the Rockies and Columbia's as a strong Westerly storm moves through the region today (Friday). Ridge top winds in the Rockies are in the strong to extreme range and accompanied by a few cm's of new snow, with a slightly lower wind speeds and more snow in the Columbia's. It is certainly winter in the alpine!
Sluffing and fresh wind slabs/cornices will be forming until the winds ease off, and we can expect a heightened avalanche hazard in the alpine as we enter the weekend. Cooler temps and clearing skies are forecast for the next week which should help lower the avalanche hazard, but choose routes with minimal avalanche hazard until this new snow has a chance to bond. We may start to see some buried weak layers in the snowpack as well. At higher elevations we have reached the threshold snowpack depths to allow for sluffs/avalanches large enough to injure or bury a person, so bring avalanche gear on climbs and scrambles in snow prone areas.
Overall it has been a great start to the ice and alpine climbing season, with lots of routes formed at higher elevations and many people getting out and exploring! The past couple warmer days have melted a few lower elevation/sunny routes, but there is still a lot of ice around for this time of year. Normal cautions for slightly fragile newly formed pillars or thin ice apply so bring some gear to retreat if needed.
Skiing is still mostly for the uber keen, but up on the glaciers and in a few snowy gullies people have been finding some turns. Be prepared for all the early season rock or stump hazards. Helmets and someone else's skis might be a good idea :). If you are travelling on the glaciers be very wary about thinly bridged crevasses. Study the summer photos, and probe carefully while roped up to determine safe lines of descent.
Scramblers and hikers should consider ski poles and boot cleats/grippers for slippery trails in sheltered areas. Popular trails in particular can be extremely icy at this time of year.
Bring a headlamp and extra warm clothes just in case, and enjoy the sunny cool days of the next week!
ACMG Mountain Guide