Ski Conditions

Thin snowpack

Columbia Icefields

Ski Conditions

We did 4 days of roadside touring in the Columbia Icefields area, April 5-8.

We encountered a few touchy cornices and thin windslabs in alpine lees, saw some size 1-2 wet snow avalanches run off steep solar aspects, and were cautious on alpine north aspects where we saw a variety of facets/hard slab layers buried beneath some soft surface snow.

The snowpack depth is so wildly variable in this area it is hard to describe conditions.

On south aspects in the trees, such as the Wilcox Pass trail or the start of the Mike Wynn traverse, there does not seem to be enough snow to travel (we didn't even try). In north facing trees there is a breakable crust atop facets that made travel difficult.

Moraines are mostly wind scoured with a lot of rock showing, and we had to walk a couple of sections below the North Glacier of Mt. Athabasca.

Glaciers have snowpack depths that seem far thinner than normal. The deepest I probed was a measly 250 cm. At 2800 m on the Boundary glacier I probed 85 cm at one point, in planar, sheltered terrain that did not seem wind affected. Even in areas of a relatively deeper snow, the pack was quite weak and mostly faceted. I turned around on an attempt to reach the Athabasca/A2 col due to boot top trail breaking in facets, with only a meter of weak snow beneath my ski bases. I had no confidence in crevasse bridge strength. On the east tongue of the North Glacier the wind has scoured down to the ice.

We did find good skiing, however: the lower tongue of the Boundary Glacier (240 cm of strong snow with powder on top), sheltered troughs on the Boundary and North Glaciers, on normal lines on Parker's Ridge, and on the upper part of the eastern slopes of K2 (sub-peak of Kitchener).

That said, I would not recommend skiing on the glaciers in this zone until conditions firm up and bridges gain strength. If I had a trip planned up the Athabasca Glacier to get to the icefield I would have my probe out the entire way and be extremely cautious.

On The Map

These observations and opinions are those of the person who submitted them. The ACMG and its members take no responsibility for errors, omissions, or lapses in continuity. Conditions differ greatly over time and space due to the variable nature of mountain weather and terrain. Application of this information provides no guarantee of increased safety. Do not use the Mountain Conditions Report as the sole factor in planning trips or making decisions in the field.