It isn't every year we're able to start to skiing in October, but today saw 8 or 9 groups of people up near Mt. McCrae to get back out on their skis and boards.
Myself and Tom Harding managed to get to ~1500 m via truck, 1770 m by snowmobile, and a high point of 2300 m on skins. Uphill travel was quite reasonable for this time of year, with a snowpack depth of 50 cm @ 1800 m, and a maximum of 70 cm @ 2000 m and above. We never pulled out a shovel, but the resistance of the snowpack feels relatively uniform in most places, and typical ski pen was in the 10-15 cm range.
Our recent storm finished warmer than it began, and a thin breakable crust exists on the surface below ~2150 m. Above 2200-2250 m, the effects of recent strong winds are evident (especially in the vicinity of the summit proper), with some ridge crest features stripped bare and sastrugi formation on knobs / high points. While the elevation band with the highest quality snow is quite narrow, most areas holding subpar snow are still plenty skiable. In the alpine, reasonable skiing could be found by following some of the more moderate troughs. At treeline and below, finding open slopes seemed to be the name of the game.
Also of note is the formation of small surface hoar (sz 2-3) last night on sheltered, open slopes above ~2000 m. In many places, this sits on top of a crust.
Natural avalanche activity is scarce, aside from day-old rollerballs accumulating beneath cliffs and rocky features all the way up to low alpine elevations. Below ~2000 m some of these did manage to entrain additional snow, but none were larger than a size 1. From afar, we may have seen a small crown on a steep, wind loaded alpine feature, but it couldn't have been more than 20-25 cm deep and propagation was minimal. Due to the wind affect I'd put the hazard at a 2 (limited obs) in the alpine, and a 1 at treeline and below.
It should go without saying, but plenty of early season hazards exist. Steep terrain is likely to be inadequately covered, creeks are open, etc. That being said, with careful terrain selection and cautious skiing, at no time in the day did the travel feel reckless.
I don't think I'm going to rush back out there anytime too soon, but I will say that it felt pretty good to slide around again and break a bit of trail!
ACMG Ski Guide