May 29 2011

TR: End of May Powder

It was the end of May, Memorial Day weekend, and yet another blast of snow had coated the neighborhood. A solid six inches fell early Saturday evening. Up on Donner Pass that translated to at least 8 inches of light, and if we hit it early enough, dry snow.

John Holleman making the last powder turns of the season. Maybe.

There wasn’t any reason to do a true dawn patrol, but it was also understood that if we lollygagged around the pow would turn to mush minutes after the sun hit it. So the key was to be early enough that the snow would still have the night’s cold before the sun could warm the day. As luck would have it, clouds continued to swirl around keeping the suns rays at bay. I set a meandering track up to the top of the ridge, we ripped skins and waited for a patch of sun to enhance photos.

First turns off the top of Judah were exactly as expected; smooth, untracked, and light. We cruised out flower ridge and then headed for the ASI chutes. A classic had beckoned on the drive up that neither John nor I had skied in awhile, so that was the line for the day.

As we approached we realized the usual entrance had been sculpted into a new shape with the record setting snow pack of the season. It was now an easy but steep rollover wedged between cliffs and trees that opened like an alluvial fan to the flats 400 feet below. We had noticed that the new snow didn’t bond all that well to the base below while skinning, but the snow was light enough on the first pitch that there was little danger of the snow building up to more than a little sluff while skiing.

Please, do not attempt to repeat this behavior in the safety of your home.

However, a few recent close calls served to remind me to make my first turn a hard ski cut on the rollover entrance. The snow sluffed below my edges, gathered momentum and refused to stop as it swept the slope clean to the bottom with a small, benign avalanche. It didn’t take off en-masse as a slab, but it didn’t stop either.

It moved slow enough we calculated we could out run it and we set tracks beside it, kicking off two more sluffs that swept the slope clean behind us. From there it was a short cruise back to the cars that would transport us back to the days chores, but they would be easier to bear with such an awesome start to the day.


© 2011


  • http://kimkircher.com kimkircher

    We had 6 inches of new snow at Crystal Mountain yesterday (we are still operating on the weekends). I did avalanche control for the first time ever on Memorial Day weekend. We saw very reactive wet slabs peeling off our ski cuts like a zippered jacket. Crazy stuff.

  • http://www.earnyourturns.com Dostie

    Great to hear Crystal is still running the lifts, even if only part time.

    Sugar Bowl announced they will open for July 4th, but I think they would have done better to be open this weekend. Still lots of base, and based on results, lots of fresh too. Doubt that will be the case come July 4th.

    Lemme guess, a firm base that the new snow refused to bond to plus warm temps to let the fresh congeal into a nice, slippery slab. Oooh yeah, cut ‘er loose and let ‘it rip!