South Coast: Duffy Lake & Spearhead Areas
The ACMG just wrapped up a Ski Guides exam on the South Coast in the Duffy Lake and Spearhead areas. Over the last week the group of 12 candidates and 3 examiners observed the following conditions:
It was still winter though diurnal cycles are beginning to creep in with periods of intense solar. 40cm of new snow fell over the course of the week which started with a strong wind event. Periods of light to moderate winds persisted throughout the rest of the week from a predominantly SW direction. Freezing levels remained at treeline elevations with greenhouse effect warming the snow surface to 2100m. We are still waiting for the first big warm-up of the spring season which looks to be headed our way on Monday.
30 to 50cm of new snow during the week created short lived surface instabilities in the form of storm and wind slabs on an early April crust. Already large cornices grew throughout the week. Natural cornice failures observed did not trigger large slab avalanches. A clearing trend late in the week produced surface crusts and small loose wet avalanches from steep solar slopes.
We did not observe any activity on the late March persistent week layer though some snow profiles produced sudden planer results which had us travelling accordingly in areas where this layer is suspected to exist: 1800 to 2300m on generally northerly and easterly aspects.
The mid and lower snowpack is well settled in the alpine and tree line areas but is becoming isothermal below 1600m.
Terrain & Conditions:
In the Duffy area we skied in the Cayoosh, Matier, Chief Pascal and Vantage Ridge areas. Lower elevations still has good snow coverage allowing ski travel right to the highway. Creek crossings are starting to open up at valley bottom but the water bars along deactivated roads as still holding snow. Glaciers are generally well covered also though we did observe an open crevasse on the north Cayoosh Glacier. Cornices were very large and intimidating causing us to minimized our exposure. High elevation north aspect skiing was great on cold powder. The skiing on Solar aspects was less enjoyable with breakable crust until softened by the sun.
Off Blackcomb we skied in the Phalanx, Spearhead, Decker and Trory areas. The cornices are large and intimidating and we worked to avoid or minimize exposure to slopes threatened by them. The Glaciers are generally well covered. Many of the classic steep lines have been getting skied with the exceptions of some guarded by large cornices. We found good travel on solar aspects though ski crampons were an asset. Higher elevation northerly aspects are skiing well.
The significant warming forecasted for next week, the first of the spring, is expected to significantly change current conditions. An elevated hazard from the large cornices and late March persistent week layer is anticipated as freezing levels climb and we start to transition from a winter to more spring like snowpack.