A Great Start to 2010

As the Christmas holidays near an end this year at Lake Louise, there are many smiling faces around the resort, thanks largely to the generally warm and sunny weather we’ve been lucky to experience at a time when it can be anything but. On top of that, we’ve received over 20cm of new snow in the last few days, with another 8cm falling overnight last night.

None of the recent snowfall was accompanied by wind, resulting in an even coating of soft fluffy snow all over the mountain. At the same time, a wind event is the only thing we’re missing to create a significant increase in avalanche hazard, both inside and outside the resort boundary. This is due almost exclusively to the weather we’ve experienced since Christmas day.

On the sunnier days earlier in the week, there was a pronounced temperature inversion, and the upper half of the mountain saw daytime temperatures hovering around the freezing mark. This has the effect of melting and adding moisture to the snowpack, and when the mercury drops well below freezing overnight, all that moisture freezes up. The result is a snow surface that is hard and smooth, providing a good sliding surface for any snow that may fall on top of it.

If that wasn’t enough, we also had temperatures that were cold enough to produce both a surface hoar layer and faceting, both of which are weak layers that have little ability to support much of a load, making it easier for new snow to slide on top of it. We now have that new snow, but since it came with little to no wind, there are no slabs, and avalanches are therefore unlikely to occur on those layers.

Wind will change all that, and when it does come (and it will), leeward slopes will see additional snow deposited, creating the slab conditions that will respond much more easily to any load placed upon it. While that load could come in the shape of a skier or snowboarder, we aim to get there first for control work, getting the slopes to avalanche before anyone gets through the gate.

Jan 1, 2020 - The goods in ER 3 (photo - Dave Petch)

Jan 1, 2010 - Patroller finds a stash (photo - Dave Petch)

Happy New Year!

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2 Comments on “A Great Start to 2010”

  1. Matt says:

    What is the effect of the inversion on the first day, before freezing or added snowfall? Can’t melting can weaken the snow and make it more likely to avalanche? Either or naturally or skier triggered.

    • lakelouiselowdown says:

      Hi Matt,

      Thanks for the comment, and sorry for the dealyed reply – I was away for the week.

      I decided to address and expand on your questions in a post, which will appear shortly.

      Chris


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