Skinned up to the Smugglers knob near the Minaret Vista today. I went up in the afternoon as the storm was starting to let up. It was cool ~21degF @ 130pm and it was quite calm at my high point of 9600ft. There was an average of 25cm of new snow from Tuesday nights little storm and the storm that started in the early morning hours today and continued through most of the first half of day light hours. I ran a gauntlet of car wrecks heading up to Main lodge on a slick Hwy203, but made it holding my breath.
The mountains were obscured above treeline for my drive up from Bishop as well while I was in the Mammoth area, so I didn’t get a good look at upper terrain today. I did not observe any storm slab or wind slab on my tour. I got a few minor localized collapses within the trees, but other than that did not observe any other glaring red flags of instability. Performed some kick turn tests and stomped on some steep rollovers, but did not observe any cracking or propagation of slabs. The new snow was quite light and fluffy. The older snow below the new snow was very faceted, rotten and loose with a few degrading melt-freeze crusts in the mix. Digging on a NW aspect, 35deg slope at 9600ft I only found 60cm of total snow. It was beautiful out this afternoon with the new snowfall, but we are still a way’s out from safe, obstacle free riding conditions in the backcountry. It will be interesting to see how the old degraded snowpack that has been sitting since late October will react if we indeed get a big storm here next week. There is not much structure to the old shallow snowpack in the sheltered areas, upon making a few conservative turns, I was literally skiing on the ground…reminded me of my days in the San Juans of CO.