A note from the Avalanche Mitigation Director, Mike Haft, at Crystal Mountain, WA:
The Pacific Northwest has had an incredible winter so far. Regionally, our mountain snowpack is at 140%. Northwest flow, driven by a strong jet has contributed to some of the best skiing and riding conditions I have seen in years. As the Avalanche Mitigation Director at Crystal Mountain, I could not be more impressed with our crew’s ability to consistently open our avalanche terrain under the pressures of time and personal exposure to risk.
As of late, the PNW has been plagued with a persistent weak layer (PWL) buried deep within the snowpack. This layer developed in mid-January and has since been capped with up to 8 feet of snow depending on aspect and elevation. For a short period of time in early February, this layer was active and was regularly producing avalanches up to 2 feet in depth during mitigation efforts. With continued snowfall, this layer became very difficult to trigger and went dormant. Since the development of this weak layer (1/13 PWL) we currently have roughly 12.50 inches of water weight sitting on top of it.
Persistent weak layers by nature can often handle an incredible amount of incremental load before failing. We have been tracking this layer from the beginning and it can be found throughout the ski resort and surrounding areas. Recent observations and explosive results (equivalent to the impact of a single skier or rider) have proven that this layer is no longer dormant.
Very large destructive avalanches 6-8 feet in depth are occurring in and around Crystal Mountain. As a forecaster, Deep Persistent Slabs are what keep me up at night. As we continue to monitor, evaluate, and test this problematic layer, keeping our employees and guests out of harm’s way is and always will be the priority.
Operationally, this means limiting access to some of our most coveted terrain, potentially for longer than you or I would like.
I am asking for your support. This avalanche problem will likely not go away for some time and we are doing everything we can to mitigate the hazard so please be patient and stay tuned for updates.
If you see a Patroller out there, say Thanks!
We’ve got your back, will you have ours?