It was a dry fall for the mountains of the Eastern Sierra. Slopes remained essentially bare up to November 20-21, when the first small storm of the season hit dropping up to a few inches of snow in the high country. Click here for a picture of McGee Mtn prior to Thanksgiving.
Then Thanksgiving arrived with the first real storm of the season transforming the mountains into a winter wonderland. This cold storm had snow levels reaching all the way down to 2000’, and 2-5ft plus of snow above 8000’. For those hardy souls chomping at the bit to finally get skis on their feet it was trench warfare breaking trail, with ski penetration up to waist deep. This arduous trail breaking and the stormy conditions kept most out of harms way in terms of avalanches, but Mammoth Mountain Ski Patrol reported quite active avalanche conditions on Friday with crowns ranging between 1 to 4 feet, mostly in the form of wind slabs.
Wind slabs with lingering sensitivity will be the greatest avalanche concern for Saturday. Keep an eye out for denser, wind deposited snow below ridgetops and across slopes where terrain promotes drifting. Do your own localized assessements before travelling across steep potentially wind loaded slopes, and when in doubt avoid them. Refresh yourself on safe travel protocols: one at a time in steep terrain, keep an eye on your partner, and of course always carry your beacon, shovel and probe.
Don't let the allure of these fresh snow-covered slopes fool you, not far under the surface lie a plethora of sharks and landmines in the form of rocks and logs. Already one skier reported smacking a log with his shins, luckily he wasn’t moving too fast and wasn’t hurt badly. Take it slow, let this next storm add to the base before even thinking about opening it up!
Deep snow emersion is a real threat as well! Falling head first in the snow, especially in a tree well, could have grave consequence.
And finally, if you get out into the mountains, please let us know what you see out there thru our observation page! The more we hear from you, the better our forecasts can be.