By Henry's Avalanche Talks. Wayne Watson photo
Off Piste Snow Conditions
Now that the clocks have gone forward, along with mild temperatures, it's important to get out early to find the best snow. After a snowfall, the snow's becoming very sticky as the day goes on, but there's still some great off-piste snow to be found on high N facing slopes.
With the mild temperatures we're expecting and possible rain at lower altitudes, it's likely that off-piste conditions could become tricky.
Any rain will, of course, make recent snow on slopes below the rain/snow limit heavy and wet. The layer under the surface snow is, at the moment, humid to wet and crusted on N facing slopes. Mild temperatures and sunshine will also lead to the snowpack becoming even more wet and humid at surface level and deeper down.. this will be the case on most slopes except N facing slopes above 2400m.
Snow StabilityWith mild temperatures, sunshine and limited overnight refreezing, we've been observing quite a few naturally releasing full-depth avalanches of heavy humidified snow (where the whole snowpack slides, leaving bare ground, grass or rock beneath). These have sometimes been quite large in size, and have been occurring on slopes beneath 3000 m, facing pretty much every direction. The avalanche forecast says that 'the weight of a group of skiers, snowshoers, etc, passing by could be enough to trigger one of these type of slides too'. We, at HAT, do not agree that release by human(s) triggering is likely regarding these full depth avalanches. But that's no reason to hang around on steep slopes which have been heated up by the sun or ambiant temperature, because that warming increases the chance of these slopes releasing naturally! Rainfall below 2500 m may also lead to naturally releasing avalanches on all slope directions. Some hardened windslab has formed on high N facing slopes in the lee of the recent strong S'ish winds, along with some snowdrifts transported by the wind. Beware as you enter into steep N facing slopes! See our HAT advice for what all the avalanche danger ratings mean: http://www.henrysavalanchetalk.com/avalanche-forecasts-danger-rating.
Tips of the WeekThere's a good chance that we'll be getting some more nice fresh snow up at higher altitudes. Have fun and be smart if/when you head out on steep slopes with fresh snow.. like look below you. Ask yourself, what could happen to you if even a small slab on the slope releases.
Changes in snow stability will occur when there is a change in the weather (such as high winds, snowfall, etc). Keep checking our Facebook page to get our latest updates: www.facebook.com/HenrysAvalancheTalk
Check the daily avalanche bulletins on this link: http://www.meteofrance.com/previsions-meteo-montagne/bulletin-avalanches, by clicking on the mountain area you're in.
We'll be updating our blog as much as possible if conditions start to look unstable, or if we have some nice photos from a great ski on www.henrysavalanchetalk.com/blog also on Twitter @HenryOff_Piste Keep checking our facebook page for updates too: www.facebook.com/HenrysAvalancheTalk
And finally, check out our growing portfolio of online talks on this link henrysavalanchetalk.com/online%20talksread more