More Snow at the Lake!Posted: October 31, 2011
I mentioned in the last post that control teams were about 30cm of snow away from being able to travel in the alpine on skis. Well, that wasn’t quite correct – it was more like 20cm, and that’s exactly what fell at Lake Louise over the last 24 hrs or so on higher parts of the mountain. The snow was dense, providing the support that teams needed to make travel on skis efficient and faster than walking. In fact, large enough drifts had formed along the snow fences that some honest powder turns were had.
The photos below were taken by control team member Dave Petch as crews covered the front side of Summit on Monday. With snow falling all the way to the base of the mountain, avalanche crews were able to ski from the top of Summit all the way to the base. Granted, it was sporty, but to be able to that before we eve open is certainly worth mentioning!
Of course, the snowfall bodes well for the start of the season at Lake Louise. Having denser snow near or at the bottom of the snowpack is a good start, as it’s more likely to form a more stable base. We talk about the season’s snowpack building right side up or upside down, and it’s the density of the layers that make up the snowpack to which this refers. Right side up – lighter density snow on top of heavier snow – is what we want, a firm base with less of a load on top. Upside down is not what we want, as heavier snow on top of lighter snow means a heavier load on top of a layer or layers that are less able to handle a heavy load.
It’s still early, and lots can happen over the next few months that will determine the fate of the snowpack for the winter. The worst things that could happen are a crust, from either rain or a melt-freeze cycle, or a long cold period with little or no snowfall, which would cause a deterioration in the snow crystals and a corresponding weakening of the snowpack. These are not uncommon events in the Rockies, and the best we can do is cross our fingers and hope that one good weather event leads to another, and another, and so on until things are in good enough shape that control teams feel confident in the stability of the snowpack and open the runs we’ve been waiting all summer to ski.