After the Storm

There is no doubt we’ll be talking about this storm for years. It seems like everyone experienced some of the greatest skiing on the east coast in a long time. That’s what 11.6″ of 7.6% density snow followed by 12″ of 8.5% snow will give you. The real question for us was what happened in the Ravines.

You may have noticed, we put the Extreme slats up yesteday. Frank, Ryan and I talked long and hard Sunday and Monday about what this means. Here’s a bit of our thought process. First, the likelihood of avalanches. That was an easy one. Yesterday morning, with the facts we had, we were certain that avalanches would take place. Second, travel advice. High danger says Travel in avalanche terrain is not recommended. Extreme says Avoid all avalanche terrain. Again, the choice seemed easy to go to Extreme. Third, the size and distribution. This is always the though choice for us. Extreme says Large to very large avalanches in many areas. We always debate how big our slides are. Certainly not as big as they can get out west our abroad, so we have to keep it relative to our scale. A very large avalacnhe in my mind is the Bowl-alanche, when something in the Tuckerman Headwall triggers from Sluice over to the Chute. We get these occasionally, and in my mind, this is very large. So can we have this size elsewhere? Talking it out Monday morning, the storm had been delivering heavy snow on ESE winds and was just shifting counter-clockwise to the NW on mild winds for our standards. This had the potential to heavily load the north wall in Huntington as well as the Fan, creating conditions that could allow the north wall to go as one big slide. Again, this is very large in my mind. As to areas that receieved the High rating yesterday, our thought was that the size avalanche in those would not reach the very large size, partly due to the size of the gully, but also partly due to a lesser degree of wind loading taking place in these areas.

To further make Monday’s forecast trickier was the fact that this storm was not coming in on strong winds. When winds rip and we get this amount of snow (24″), the wind slab can grow very thick before finally releasing. Think very large. On the winds this storm was arriving on, we were thinking we might see a several cycles of softer slab rather than fewer cycles of firmer slab. Several medium to large avalanches rather than one cycle of very large avalanches was a possibility with this storm.

With all this in mind, I was very happy to see bluebird skies on my drive north to Pinkham this morning. A perfect opportunity to see what happened and hopefully confirm what we thought. The following is documentation of the carnage Brian and I found today. Every gully we forecast slid (except the Little Headwall) including multiple unnamed features and snowfields. Both Ravines had debris travel the farthest of the season. Particularly noteworthy, Hillman’s Highway jumped the dogleg. We are in the midst of a winter that is shaping up quite well.

Huntington: South and Odell

Huntington Ravine

The North Wall of Huntington

An example of the widespreadness of the avalalanche cycle. This unnamed gully is to looker’s left of Escape Hatch. It was one of the few visible crown lines that had not reloaded.

An impressive amount of snow in Tuckerman.

Left Gully and the Chute. Note the pillow lingering in the upper reaches of Left.

Lobster Claw, R Cubed, Q-Bert, and the Fourth Dimension. These gullies all grew substantially from the storm.

Lip, Sluice, and Right Gully, Note the crown in the Lip from early Tuesday morning.

Brian feeling very exposed on the floor of Tuckerman which has grown significantly.

The Boott Spur Ridge looking very filled in. The Lower Snowfields grew dramatically.

Hillman’s Highway from the debris tha jumped the dogleg.

The Lower Snowfields and Hillman’s from the Tuckerman Ravine Trail. Wow.


Back to the original thought of when do the Extreme slats get posted. We were certain that avalanches would take place and today we saw signs of at least one cycle in every forecast area. Travel advice of Avoid all avalanche terrain was appropriate. As to the size and distribution, we saw signs of large and very large avalanches in many areas. The feedback Brian and I received in the field today was great. We take our ratings seriously and validation of our ratings is always a great thing to see.

If this wasn’t enough, be sure to check out the weather forecast for tomorrow. While the snow totals are going down, we’re still looking at upwards of 12″ by Thursday morning with increasing winds. It might not be Extreme, but I’m excited for the high pressure moving in on Friday and getting visibility of more avalanches.

See you on the hill.