Another Epic Day at the LakePosted: January 8, 2009
While the snow may have let up a bit today, the smiles did not as skiers and boarders enjoyed another day of powder turns at Lake Louise. This recent storm, nearing a total of 50cm over the last few days, has added a third to a half of our total snowpack, and with forecasts calling varying amounts over the next three or four days, it doesn’t look like it’s about to stop.
The wind that was absent during the bulk of this storm finally arrived early this morning, and we started to see some of this new snow get moved around. If the wind keeps up, avalanche control teams will have a lot of work ahead of them since wind-deposited snow tends to make the hairiest avalanche conditions with the biggest consequences. By consequences, I mean destructive power. Over the last few days, we’ve been able to get some small loose snow avalanches started in steeper terrain, but these slides didn’t pick up much mass or run all that far. The snow remained loose, so even the avalanche debris made for good skiing.
When wind-blown snow is deposited on leeward slopes, it forms a slab, and this is due to a few things. First, as the wind moves the flakes over the ground, the delicate crystals break into smaller pieces, meaning they can be packed more densely. Also, the wind acts as a packer, pushing the pieces of crystals even closer together. The resulting slab becoms one big piece of snow, meaning that if one section of the slope wants to slide, the rest of the slope is more likely to go with it. The dense chunks of slab have the potential to cause much more damage than a loose snow avalanche, which can flow around objects more easily. Of course, if there’s enough volume, a loose snow avalanche can be very destructive.
With all of this new snow and the huge load it has now placed on the underlying snow layers, we will be heli-bombing for about half-an-hour tomorrow morning. I’ll be there, camera and all, and will post all about it in the next day or two (or three).