Luck continues to bless the Fraser Valley with great skiing conditions as we approach the Holidays. A consistent layer of fluffy white has been resistant to the mid-day warmth that we all enjoy, but that earnest skiers know starts to alter the snow in ways less than desirable for easy skiing. Free moisture in the snow is enhanced by the rays of the sun, and the fresh, sharp-edged, pointy crystals begin the aging process of becoming blunted, rounded, and eventually more granular. The ease with which you can make a snowball tells you how much water is present, and gives you an idea of how hard the crust might be when the mercury drops. When things warm sufficiently, areas where trails have been packed down by previous passers by become icy. During this current spate of favorable weather, most of the winter pathways have been spared this indignity. Some sunny slopes however, have succumbed to the kisses of the sun, and become crisp and crunchy with the cooling of the late afternoon air.
Our recent pattern has been to have dustings and waves of snow showers that freshen up the top layers. Sometimes it seems like these snowfalls fly under the radar… literally, as I look outside at delicate, white crystals drifting lazily to the ground and look back at a website that suggests we should expect 10% chance of snow and that our dry period will continue, with no evidence of precipitation on their radar. Meanwhile, network television weather experts, not necessarily known for their attention to details of mountain weather, are touting all of Colorado as being over 100% of normal snowpack! Certainly this is a reminder that mountain weather is hard to predict, and that forecasts, like crystal balls hoping to peer into the future should be taken with a healthy grain of salt.
While double digit dumps would undoubtedly stoke our desires to get out and get after it from the lifts, seasoned nordies know that building the snowpack slowly makes for some really good kick and glide, without having the hip-flexor-searing efforts of breaking trail through the deeps or having the weight of a fresh new, but inherently unstable snowpack on the steeps.
Another factor in building a good snowpack (I hate to jinx it) has been the dearth of wind events. There has been enough wind up high to create some sastrugi – firmly wind-hardened scallops and sculptures forming a crusted surface – but overall the winds have not hammered and stripped away open areas with the strength and endurance that they might have and often do when unstable systems pass through. Indeed, we have many blessing to be thankful for here in the Fraser Valley and Headwaters region.