Off Piste Snow Report : 6th – 10th February 2016

By Henry's Avalanche Talk (Wayne Watson photo)
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Off Piste Snow Conditions

We'll continue to find a wide variety of off-piste conditions in this unsettled week of changing temperatures, wind directions and snowfall/rainfall. Every day has been, and will continue to be, different. Skins and couteaux (ski crampons) have definitely been our friends earlier this past week and the week before!
We're due for quite a bit of fresh snow with strong gusts of wind this weekend and into next week. Last week and earlier this week, the snow had an early morning spring-like crust which was very difficult to ski, although it softened as the daytime temperatures rose. Wind had also played a massive role hardening and densifying the snow, transporting the snow around a lot, blowing it off exposed parts of the mountain and causing very deep accumulations (particularly on high leeward NE to SE facing slopes). Any fresh snow will be lying on top of this variable snowpack.

Snow Stability

Plenty of fresh snow and wind will cause new areas of surface windslab to develop, which will not bond well with the layer(s) of snow underneath. The snowpack already contains hardened windslab (sometimes on top of other slabs), which are not adhering to the deeper, older crusty or cohesionless snow, and other areas of deep snow accumulation. All these layers and different elements in the snowpack are not bonding at all well with each other, and it would be possible for the weight of a single skier passing by to trigger an avalanche, especially on cold NW to NE facing slopes above 2500 m. This could potentially result in large depth avalanches/slides coming down, taking a large portion of the snowpack with them.
It looks like we are headed towards a situation that is often referred to as 'Persistent Weak Layer'. If this is the case, then the danger of triggering slab avalanches will continue to be a worry for at least a few weeks - mainly on North'ish facing slopes above 2500 metres that have not been compacted by several thousand skiers since the beginning of the season. For more information on this see this video:

 Tip of the Week

Off-piste conditions will be very changeable this coming week, so we'll no doubt be updating this report, mainly through our Facebook page. Check out our FB posts on
Ride Hard !! Ride Safe read more