Crowded parking lot at MCS today, new snow brought large groups of skiers, snow machines and Christmas tree harvesters. While the snow pack lacked the depth of Pilot's, we walked the Sunset Lookout road to take a gander at the snow and provide some comparison to other observations in the area.
Weather agreed with the predicted cloudy conditions, spots of sun illuminating the surrounding peaks. Light snow occurred off and on throughout the day.
Snow pack has increased dramatically in the last couple storms, however underbrush and debris are still visible. We didn't experience any settling or shooting cracks, some sluffs were visible from road cuts but no natural avalanches were observed during our tour.
Climbed ridges to a high point north of the look out tower. Along the ridge to the high point we dropped into low angle north facing terrain. Wind effects are usually present off of this ridge, and we were interested in seeing recent loading onto weaker layers in the snow pack. Only minimal wind effect was observed on the ridges.
North Slope off ridge <30 degrees
Elevation: 6900 ft
HS 70 cm
0-8 cm DH
20 cm SH layer
35 cm weak interface, previous storm layers
35 - 70 cm PP
CT 15 at 20 cm SH Layer
CT 26 - saw some compression in base
ECT 6 -condensing of new snow
ECTP 17 Q1 at 20 cm SH Layer
Interesting layers are present in this snow pack. Despite the north aspect, the DH layer that has plagued other areas of MCS and Banner summit were thinner than expected. In places where brush or logs were present very thin crust layers existed at the bottom of the snow pack. We didn't observe the same rotten snow falling out of the bottom of the snow pack as previous observations have yielded. Most likely our elevation was too low to observe these large DH layers. This might explain the "weak interface" layers we observed from the last 2 storms as two thin crust layers were identified at 35 cm (possible rain event?)
The surface hoar layer covered by last weekend(12/7) storm looks to be the main issue for this aspect, however the persistent DH layer will definitely be present at other elevations. We observed two skiers ripping the sub ridges off the high point and didn't see any sluffs or skier triggered avalanches. We decided to lend towards caution with the minimal snow pack and rode low angle terrain off of ridges. back to the MCS parking area.