We spent the week based out of the Asulkan Hut, enjoying a fine mix of skiing in both warm, sunny conditions and blustery, heavy snowfall.
Area Travelled: due to weather conditions, we stayed quite close to the hut, with the majority of our skiing taking place in the Tree Triangle below the hut, and around the Triangle Morraine. we were able to get up into the Alpine on Wed (Mar 9th) under mainly clear skies, with a trip up to Saphire Col.
Snowpack: we encountered a manly well settled snowpack with depths averaging over 3 meters, even below Treeline (we skied down to 1550m) the upper 30-40cm is soft storm snow, with areas of winepress and windslab at Treeline & above. we dug two test pits at the 1900m range, specifically to find & test the Feb 27 layer. in both pits, we were able to find the layer down 60-80cm. in one, the surface hoar was well preserved at 4-6mm, in the other, the crystals had begun to round. we did not have any significant results in compressions tests on either layer; only one pit had a Hard result with a Resistant Planar character. we did find shears (Sudden Planar in quality) in the upper 30cm, a result of the recent storm snow.
Glacier Coverage: even tho we were limited in our areas of travel, we were able to observe a number of the glaciated features in the Asulkan area. The Asulkan glacier, along the regular route to Saphire Col, has over 3.2m+ of well settled snow. sags are noticeable in the usual places (looker's left side when heading up to the col), and there is a bare spot of ice at the top of the headwall, looker's left. the crevasses we could see are all very large, easily able to swallow multiple buses in one go. however, snow coverage was good and for an experienced, roped party, passage around them could possibly be found.
Avalanche Activity: very little activity (both Natural & Skier Triggered) was observed in the first half of the week, but after a significant snowfall (20cm+) and strong Southerly winds Thursday day/night & Friday AM, we noted several large Natural Avalanches on NE aspects that had run sometime very early Friday morning. we also noted an isolated Natural slab avalanche that had released earlier in the week around the 1500m elevation on a steep, planar, open slope, below & looker's right of the Triangle Morraine. we are not sure, but assume that it ran on the Feb 27th layer. the higher elevation slides of Fri AM were mainly running in the storm snow, but at least one appeared to have stepped down to the Feb 27th layer, with a fracture depth over 1m+. As expected, when the sun came out on Wed, numerous solar triggered loose avalanches ran to valley bottom. of note is that the large slide path that feeds into the Mouse Trap feature (the Ravens) has not slide large yet this year - there was no debris of note in the Trap itself.
Mindset: even tho we were not getting any significant results with compression tests &sSki cuts, we choose to take a conservative approach with our ski program, due to the presence and nature (surface hoar) of the Feb 27 layer. this approach was considered for all elevations we travelled. we also choose to remain well clear of any solar aspects due to the multiple sun crusts and associated facet/surface hoar layers buried in the upper snowpack. even with restrained terrain choices, we still found excellent skiing at all elevations. I suspect, tho, that after the storm of Thurs/Fri, that the Alpine is extensively wind effected, with widespread wind slab development, in the Asulkan area
Hut Facilities: the hut in general is in great shape; we did bring out a bunch of forgotten items of clothing & water bottles. if any of these are yours & you would like to retrieve them, please contact the ACC office in Canmore. also of note is that the guitar is beginning to show some heavy signs of wear - 4 of the 6 tuning pegs are missing the winder handles & the strings are getting pretty worn out. i'm sure the instrument would love a little TLC if anybody is so inclined. as well, folks are busy using ALL sides of the hut for nocturnal pee missions... this makes it rather difficult to find clean snow for water needs! please use one area only - strongly recommend the spot (already quite yellow) beside the grey water hole marker.
the attached pictures show one of the larger avalanches seen on Friday AM, as well as some of the large cornices forming just near the hut. it is difficult to judge scale, but the cornice behind the hut is approximately the same size as the hut itself.
dave healey, acmg ski guide
lisa porter, acmg apprentice ski guide
Alpine Club of Canada's Asulkan Hut Ski Camp