Outdoors blog

Unstable snowpack triggers avalanche advisory

WINTER SPORTS -- Although weekly avalanche advisories won't begin until Dec. 17, Forests Service hydrologists with the Idaho Panhandle Avalanche Center issued an advisory this afternoon warning snow travelers of unstable snow conditions likely to last at least for a day or two.
Read on to see the full report issued by Kevin Davis in Sandpoint.

Advisory issued Dec. 2 by Idaho Panhadle Avalanche Center in Sandpoint:

Snow is piling up in the valleys and more importantly, in the mountains.  We're seeing about 3-5 feet in most locations across our forecast region above 4,500 feet.  Recall that appreciable snow began to accumulate around the beginning of November.  This was followed by a warming period where we lost some of that snow and what remained formed a crust.  Temperatures dropped and we accumulated a couple of feet of light, low density snow on top of that.  

The low density stuff continued to accumulate and very cold temperatures weakened the base layers.  A north and east wind created a windslab on those aspects and some snow deposited on west and south aspects.  As of today the temperatures in the mountains are reaching up toward the 32 degree mark.  This will create some instability associated with the windslabs and deeper deposition areas.  Be cautious for the next 24-48 hours.  

Warmer tempertures will, over time, settle the pack and lead to more stable conditions.

We'll be going into the Cabinets tomorrow to assess how the base is forming for future loads.

  • Check the Avalanche Center website for updates and schedules for avalanche education classes.

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Rich Landers
Rich Landers writes and photographs stories for a wide range of outdoors coverage, including a Sunday feature section and a Thursday column. He also writes the Outdoors Blog.

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