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Spring Snowpack Observations Thread

Info, conditions and gear related to skiing or riding Colorado Peaks, including the 14ers! Ski/Ride Trip Reports
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Spring Snowpack Observations Thread

Postby BTL » Tue Apr 26, 2011 8:21 am

The resort season is winding down....Since the snow consolidation seems like it might be a bit later this year and a little tricky to judge right now (4/26), I thought I'd put a placeholder thread out here for people to record what they see out in the backcountry. I'm eager to get up high but still a bit wary from what I've read at CAIC. If you get out, please take a minute to tell us what you experienced. Thanks!

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Re: Spring Snowpack Observations Thread

Postby tmathews » Tue Apr 26, 2011 8:30 am

This is a page (on the 14ers.com links page) that people should bookmark: http://www.wcc.nrcs.usda.gov/snotel/Colorado/colorado.html

If you're not familiar on how to navigate through the page, just find the SNOTEL site closest (better to check several in the area, if available) and you can view the sensor readings. I normally go to the Snow Depth link and look at the data for the last 7 days. If you see a reading indicating -99.9, that normally indicates a sensor malfunction.

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Re: Spring Snowpack Observations Thread

Postby peter303 » Tue Apr 26, 2011 8:32 am

I like the coloured snow map here ftp://ftp-fc.sc.egov.usda.gov/CO/Snow/snow/watershed/daily/co_update_snow.pdf.
Its kind of weird. The north has record snow and the south borders the Texas drought.

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Re: Spring Snowpack Observations Thread

Postby tmathews » Tue Apr 26, 2011 8:40 am

peter303 wrote:I like the coloured snow map here ftp://ftp-fc.sc.egov.usda.gov/CO/Snow/snow/watershed/daily/co_update_snow.pdf.
Its kind of weird. The north has record snow and the south borders the Texas drought.


Yeah, I like that one as well, but the basin-wide averages don't necessarily reflect what the individual sensors are reading. For example: Even though the Arkansas Basin is showing 102%, most of that is from the east side of the Sawatch, not the east side of the Sangres (which we know have been extremely dry this year). I'm not sure if that map is showing percentages for snow depth or snow-water equivalent, either.

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Re: Spring Snowpack Observations Thread

Postby Jon Frohlich » Tue Apr 26, 2011 8:59 am

I was up near Homestake Peak this weekend on a hut trip. For those not familiar it's roughly midway between Massive and Holy Cross. It's amazing how much snow is up there. Over the last few years I've done a hut trip in that area every April and this is by far the most snow I've seen. I did dig a snow pit a little ways down to see how things looked and it still appears be a fairly complicated snowpack in that particular area. There was about 8-10 inches of fresh snow on top of a compacted icy layer and then a layer of depth hoar. There are huge monster cornices on the ridge to the north of Homestake Peak as well. We didn't observe any cracking and didn't see any evidence of fresh avalanches.

I still think caution is definitely a good idea. It doesn't seem like the snowpack has decided if it's spring or still winter. That pretty much agrees with the last CAIC forecast I saw.

Re: Spring Snowpack Observations Thread

Postby gonzalj » Tue Apr 26, 2011 9:03 am

tmathews wrote:This is a page (on the 14ers.com links page) that people should bookmark: http://www.wcc.nrcs.usda.gov/snotel/Colorado/colorado.html

If you're not familiar on how to navigate through the page, just find the SNOTEL site closest (better to check several in the area, if available) and you can view the sensor readings. I normally go to the Snow Depth link and look at the data for the last 7 days. If you see a reading indicating -99.9, that normally indicates a sensor malfunction.


Sweet website =D> . Thanks for that.

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Re: Spring Snowpack Observations Thread

Postby mennoguy » Tue Apr 26, 2011 12:02 pm

I use this site to find the snow depth in a specific regions.

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Re: Spring Snowpack Observations Thread

Postby llamaman » Tue Apr 26, 2011 1:47 pm

I now prefer the Google Earth and Google Maps snotel displays to the regular Snotel site where you have to download data tables/charts one location at a time. These mapped versions give you a statewide (actually, all across the west) view and then you can drill down for details.

Here's the link to the Google Earth site for Snotel data. http://www.wcc.nrcs.usda.gov/snotel/earth/index.html

NOTE: With the Google Earth layer, you have re-download the file each time you want updated data, but it's pretty easy to do.

And on this site you'll find a link to the Google maps version http://www.wcc.nrcs.usda.gov/snow/

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Re: Spring Snowpack Observations Thread

Postby llamaman » Tue Apr 26, 2011 1:55 pm

As for specific observations, I was up on Meadow Mountain and Mount St Vrain on the IPW/RMNP border on Saturday (not skiing, not 14ers, but hey, it's info). Take this with a grain of salt because I'm no expert, but here's what I observed. I knew we'd be around avy terrain, which we usually avoid because we're just not that skilled, but as we proceeded up to the saddle between Meadow and St Vrain, I was pretty confident that existing snowpack was quite consolidated. There was a hard, thick icy layer from previous freeze/thaw cycles. There may have been a week layer down lower, but we heard no whoompfs, saw no cracks, and generally encountered no signs of instability at all. Same can be said for the snowpack on the east slopes of Mount St Vrain. It was snowing quite hard, with about 6-8 inches of new by the time we started making our way back down. I wouldn't be surprised if there were some point releases by Sunday, with all that new snow accumlating on that hard layer. Anyway, if I had time, I would have gone back on Sunday to ski the area. Looked like great conditions!

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Re: Spring Snowpack Observations Thread

Postby Magnum420 » Tue Apr 26, 2011 3:08 pm

No first hand backcountry info but there was a lot of natural slide activity around Abasin and Loveland pass last night and this morning(4/26). The Brain and most couloirs around there slid(mostly new snow) with one slide looking like it MIGHT have stepped down into lower layers. 10-12 inches of new snow by about 10am with more on the way.
"I was high on life till I realized it was cut with idiots!" ---Anon---

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Re: Spring Snowpack Observations Thread

Postby RestUp » Tue Apr 26, 2011 8:10 pm

I have been watching Mt. Shavano and yesterday when there was a break in the snow and the sun hit the mountain I could see what look like a narrow long slide starting high on the sub-peak on the lookers left and making its way all the way down to about the left edge of the Angel's body. Without a good spotting scope it was hard to tell how deep the slide was but it appeared to be a shallow and fairly narrow slide, probably just the new snow over the last 3-5 days.

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Re: Spring Snowpack Observations Thread

Postby tmathews » Wed Apr 27, 2011 9:51 am

peter303 wrote:I like the coloured snow map here ftp://ftp-fc.sc.egov.usda.gov/CO/Snow/snow/watershed/daily/co_update_snow.pdf.
Its kind of weird. The north has record snow and the south borders the Texas drought.


Basin-wide averages have increased in the southern mountains (was down to 68% and 76% in the Rio Grande and San Juan Basins, respectively) in today's update. Remember to check the individual SNOTEL sites (linked in this thread) for localized information.

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