Typical Springtime Stability Concerns

Typical Springtime Stability Concerns

As we move firmly into spring, it’s important to remember that this is a transitional time for the weather and the snowpack. During this time, conditions will fluctuate between cold winter-like storms and extended dry periods. With such dynamic weather, you can expect equally dynamic avalanche conditions. Here are some general reminders about spring conditions and travel recommendations.

  • During long dry periods with increased temperatures and greater solar gain, the snowpack is likely to transition to a typical melt-freeze cycle, and stability concerns may be specific to wet instabilities. 
  • Be wary when overnight temperatures remain above freezing.
  • Ascend slopes when they are hard and frozen, descend when they begin to soften and be off of them before they get loose and unsupportable.  
  • Be sure to bring the proper equipment. An ice ax, and boot or ski crampons may become essential equipment.
  • Expect an increase in avalanche danger during or just after a storm cycle. During these periods you can expect to be dealing with avalanche problems more typical of the winter months such as wind slab or storm instabilities. This may be followed by a spike in Loose wet concerns on the first few warm sunny days after the storm clears. 
  • One specific concern worthy of keeping in mind for this spring Is the weak faceted base to our snowpack. It is feasible that a persistent slab or wet slab avalanche problem may develop at some point in the coming months.

Be wary of other springtime hazards

  • Large cornice features can collapse without warning when subjected to a skier’s weight, high temperatures, and/or intense solar input.
  • Snow bridges over creeks will weaken an may collapse as the water rises, and the snow begins to melt.

In dynamic times like this, it is essential to remember the basics.

  • If there is snow on the ground, Avalanches are possible in the mountains. Recent avalanche activity is a sign that triggering others is possible.
  • Always keep an eye out for the “red flags.” 
    • Recent avalanche activity, Cracking or collapsing, heavy snowfall, strong winds and blowing snow, rapid warming, and strong sun on fresh snowfall.
  • Avalanche terrain does not get less consequential during the spring. Use conservative terrain choice and safe travel techniques to limit your exposure.
  • In times of heightened uncertainty, tone it back and keep it simple.
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