This year continues to go down historically as one of the good years for skiers in the region, as our skiing has remained uniformly on the pleasant side, with consistent cold and regular refreshing. While we still have not seen many big numbers in storm totals, the snow continues to pile up bit by bit. It finally is approaching the annual mid-winter maximum on the tree that acts as a snow-stake outside my window. Our snowpack may not be as deep as near the mountains of Utah, where their 3-wire fences can be seen to disappear entirely under the snow, but ours is arguably good, being belly deep on a moose.
The snowpack remains unconsolidated in most areas, though with the right equipment, speed, and touch, one can float down on a pillowy pitch. Go too slow or push too hard and the skis might drop precipitously to ground level. Lighter weight skiers with a large surface area underfoot will have the best time of it. Areas known to have stumps should be avoided or skied with an appropriate amount of caution, knowing that the under-surface is booby trapped for those who are sinking deeply through.
Trails further away from regular traffic have become more difficult to follow due to the many layers that have been getting laid down, often with enough of a blow to obscure the depression of a packed trail. Trail-breaking has become a matter of trial and error in places where old traces of trail have been obscured. A subtle ripple on the surface may be all that is left as any indication of a track. The old trail bed, as it gets buried deeper and for more time becomes less easy to find as well as less supportive, as it metamorphoses back into more uniformity with surrounding snow.
Closer in to trailheads, in some areas, snowshoers have predominated the packing of the track, making for a steep, narrow-walled ravine that winds more tightly than long skis would. This calls for quick turn-on-a-dime steering ability, or a willingness to shave off the edge of the turns and steeper sections of trail to scrub one’s speed. Perhaps this week’s Holiday travelers will help us get back up on top of the snowpack.