Winds have been overall light for the past 3 days since the last major snowfall ended, with the exception for elevations over 12,000’ where moderate SW winds have transported snow over high peaks. Wind slabs which developed during the storm at low to mid elevations have now had time to stabilize for the most part. However, at very high elevations where snow transport has continued recent wind slabs are likely to be sensitive to human triggering. On Thursday these are most likely to be found just below ridges and sidewalls of couloirs on slopes greater than 35 degrees facing NW-N-NE-E-SE. As winds increase with gusts up to 60mph over 10,000’ and shift more out of the North and East late Thursday night thru Friday, new sensitive windslabs will develop. These will most likely be found on SE-S-SW-W aspects at mid and upper elevations on Friday.
Look for clues like blowing snow, new cornice formation, denser snow patches and smooth hollow sounding snow to identify wind slabs. Do your own stability assessments in safe terrain to see how recent and sensitive wind slabs are. When in doubt avoid wind loaded features steeper than 35 degrees such as leeward convexities, slopes below ridgelines, and the side walls of gullies.
The last impressive storm exited the area early Monday morning leaving between 22 and 69 inches of new snow in its wake. A hefty natural avalanche cycle occurred during the storm. 2 houses in the Long Valley area below McGee Mtn were hit and damaged, luckily without personal injury. For the past 3 days we have experienced mostly clear skies, cold temperatures and mostly light winds down low. SW winds were moderate over 12,000’. Storm slabs and wind slabs that formed during the storm from high SW winds have had time to stabilize for the most part. Concern continues to exist over wind slabs at very high elevations because of continued wind transport over high peaks, and we could see some down to mid elevations as well since winds will increase out of the NE on Friday. Earlier concerns over deep weak layers are now quite diminished due to how deeply these layers are buried, and the fact that tests have shown them to be stabilizing. As temperatures warm slightly Friday, some minor wet roller-ball activity may be seen on solar aspects around rocksat low to mid elevations, but these should stay small as temperatures will still remain relatively cold.
Observations across much of the forecast area are showing increasing stability since the last storm. Little data exists from above about 11000’, however cornices and blowing snow up high point to the development of wind slabs at high elevations.
A weak disturbance will bring increased clouds and some light snow showers to the region on Thursday, but little in the way of accumulation. Any snowfall amounts will generally be less than an inch with most areas just seeing a trace. Temperatures will remain cold with highs in the mid teens to low 20s at 10,000'. Winds will increase and shift direction out of the North and East late Thursday night into Friday in the 40-50mph range above 10,000', with ridges seeing gusts up to 60mph. For Friday temperatures will warm slightly into the mid 20s to low 30s at 10,000', skies should be clear, and winds will begin to decrease in the afternoon. Expect much warmer days and nighttime inversions for the weekend.
This Snowpack Summary is designed to generally describe avalanche conditions where local variations always occur. This product only applies to backcountry areas located outside established ski area boundaries. The information in this Snowpack Summary is provided by the Eastern Sierra Avalanche Center, who is solely responsible for its content.