Onion Valley - University Pass Conditions

University Pass
Submission Info
Volunteer Observer
Thursday, March 12, 2020 - 10:00am
University Pass 36° 44' 31.5204" N, 118° 21' 13.2336" W
Snowpit Observations
More detailed information about the snowpack: 

Quick note on conditions in the Southern Sierra, which is technically out of the forecast zone but may be of interest to some:


Group of three skiers headed out of Onion Valley campground towards the East Face of University Peak.  We were hoping to ski the east face before the sun impacted it, thinking that the day prior the area had been under cloud cover/snowfall. 


We found about 20cm of fresh snow at the trailhead covered by a thin sun crust as we departed around 5:45a.  This crust persisted on and off up the canyon towards the morraine. Shady and protected aspects on the approach were nice, light powder.  There were a couple of layers apparent when probing down in the lower elevations (i.e. below 11k), with crust/facet combos stretching deeper than a ski pole could probe.  No signs of instability below the moraine.


Reaching the moraine at about 7:30a, we continued to see sections of light dry boot top powder mixed with sections of sun crust on top of fresh snow.  The East Face of University peak was covered in the sun crust and looked relatively bony, so we elected to ski a north facing chute off the ridgeline to the east of the peak instead.


Booting up the chute, we found about 45cm of newer snow on top of knife hard crust.  The top 10” or so was fresh snow from yesterday’s storm. We focused our evaluation on the top layers of the snowpack -  30cm fist hard fresh snow on top of 4cm 1F hard crust with 10cm small facets below. Hand shears required moderate force to trigger non-planar breakage of the column.  Nothing concerning really, the snow seemed quite stable here.  

Towards the top of the chute we saw active wind transport, with a moderate north wind stripping the upper section.  There were pockets in this area of the chute where dinner table sized wind pockets had formed. They failed with light force on hand shears but were quite thin - under 3” or so.  One of these cracked a bit on the ski down but did not go anywhere.


We dropped in around 10a.  Below the wind board at the top of the chute the snow was a nice, cold, boot top powder.  Most of the crust had softened on the moraine and in the canyon below, so we enjoyed a long, continuous, pow/hot pow ski back to the car.  Arrived back at the trailhead around 10:45a.

Any other comments about the observation or links to outside pages that have more info on the observation: 

Road was driveable to the trailhead in a high clearance vehicle

Weather Observations
Blowing Snow: 
Cloud Cover: 
Air temperature: 
Below Freezing
Wind Speed: 
Air temperature trend: 
Wind Direction: 
More detailed information about the weather: 

Sunny skies all morning with a few passing clouds.  Very cold temperatures warming gradually.  Warm at the trailhead, likely above freezing at 10:45a

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