Boot packing….


Ox pow

Not bad for Nov 10th

We’ve been well underway at the Horse getting things ready for the season. Take one look at the webcam and it’s pretty clear(when it’s clear) than the upper mountain is in great shape. One of the most important pre-season preparations we do is bootpack the start zones of most of our avalanche terrain.  After explosive control and ski cuts  have been done, we line up our crew of bootpackers at the top of the runs and we all wallow down with our skis on our packs, zig-zaging accross the slope tracking it out.

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Walking down

 The whole idea behind our bootpacking program is to get the snowpack “mulched” up, to break up the homogenous weak layer(s).  So when the snowpack receives an increased load later in the season, it won’t avalanche because there’s less propagation potential and connectivity within the snowpack. It’s tedious and hard work but necessary to get the snow on our steep terrain ready for the skiing public.  It’s also great strength training….

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goin' up

It’s been really interesting this season to see the progression of the early snowpack, the formation of the weak layers and the terrain influences and factors that contribute to the avalanches we’ve seen.  This season, as with the last, our primary layer of interest is the late October rain crust.  We had a rain event all the way to the top of the mountain which formed a subsequent rain crust 5 to 15 cm’s off the ground.  Explosive and ski-cut tests produce large, widespread size 2 and 3 avalanches on this layer pulling out to ground and running full path in areas with smooth ground cover. 

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Fresh crown line on the Bowl Over headwall

Kind of scary but at least predictable, the good news is it seems that in areas that have avalanched previously on this layer, the new snow has bonded well to the bed surface and any terrain that has rough ground cover doesn’t have the connectivity to act as a good(bad) sliding layer.  I guess the take home message is be careful in the Dogtooth slackcountry early season.  Make sure you’re scrutinising your terrain choices, managing the large propagation potential ie. skiing one at a time, regrouping in areas with little overhead hazard and avoiding large smooth slopes in the alpine…..  

That said, it’s not all doom and gloom just practice good basic travel techniques, the skiing’s well worth it.


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