Recent Trip Reports!
There are some easy places to Backcountry ski,
such as Skyline Ridge at Stevens Pass across from the Stevens Pass Ski Area
on U.S. Highway 2. It is an easy morning drive from Seattle, and there is plenty of room to break your own trail and
explore if you have the strength. Even with the abundance of powder, and skiers, we were able to ski
untracked snow all day!
To get there, follow your map to Monroe, then go east on U.S. Route 2 to the summit of Stevens
Pass. Park on the north side of the highway in the large ski area lot. From the
parking lot, climb north along a road as it passes cabins and climbs to a
power shack. From here go straight up or switchback up the ridge, staying near the trees. The
route levels out and in a half-mile comes to the lake at 4,800 feet.
||Kenny and Suzanne dig snow pits and do snowpack analysis
as Ira watches.
It is a short but steep climb of 1,200 feet to the ridge, and frozen Skyline
Lake. The lake is surrounded by second growth trees and snow covered boulders. On the rare clear days
( I have never been here on a clear day) you
can enjoy views of the Alpine Lakes Wilderness, Mount Stuart, Mount Daniel,
and Glacier Peak.
We had simply superb skiing on the north and west facing slopes and glades of
Heather Ridge. The Thursday before had brought more than two feet of light
and fresh Cascade powder on top of a sun crust from two weeks earlier.
Thursday and Friday had seen many natural occurring avalanches throughout
the Cascades so we were extra careful.
After doing a snowpack analysis, we all made several descents in the
There were others around ( of course) but mostly everyone was very happy
to share the wonderful powder. The area still had plenty of untracked lines
left at the end of the day!
||Mike does the rutschblock test. It failed with one easy
jump, a 4.
We also did a shovel test, and shear test.
Our pits on a sheltered and gladed north aspect showed a favorable and
homogenous upper 3' with only gradual hardness changes, on top of the
crust from Feb 15. In this area, test results showed good
Here is a short video of Ira's rutschblock test:
Ira's failed with easy weighting, a 3.
Here is Gary Brill's report to the Avalanche Center:
Central Cascades WA
Stevens Pass Heather Ridge
From an avalanche class Saturday, I would
confirm the untrustworthiness of the snowpack where wind exposed. Pole
testing shows poor structure beneath a stiff slab in these areas. I had
the feeling that if the slab could be made to fail very extensive
propagation and remote triggering of a deep slab was possible. On the
other hand, a series of pits on a sheltered and gladed north aspect
showed a much more favorable and homogenous upper 3' with only gradual
hardness changes. In this area, test results showed good stability. The
structure at Stevens Pass and Snoqualmie Pass was very similar in the
upper layers, but with more faceting beneath a much weaker crust at
Stevens. Hazard Considerable where wind exposed at Stevens.
||Kenny making a nice run on AT gear.
Snowpack Analysis for 02/25/06 from the Avalanche
Generally decreasing winds and snowfall Thursday night followed by some slow
snowpack settlement on Friday have helped to slightly reduce the recently
higher avalanche danger in most areas. However, very fragile weak layers of
faceted snow or surface hoar remain beneath about 1 to 3 feet of new
relatively low density snow, along with a relatively poor bond of the new
snow to an old crust formed during fair warm weather in early-mid
February. Fortunately in some areas, the new snow has either not been
cohesive enough to propagate fractures or the weight of single
recreationists has not been enough to cause weak layer failure near the
crust. The result has been very good powder skiing or riding in some
locations where wind has not been a factor and more isolated instabilities
have been reported. However, many avalanche professionals (including this
forecaster) are expressing a significant lack of trust of this “apparent”
snowpack stability. Field reports continue to indicate relatively
wide variations in the danger over short distances, possibly related to wind
effects. And isolated 1 to 3 ft easily skier triggered slabs were reported
as recently as late Friday afternoon in several locations near Snoqualmie
and Stampede Passes. Also during the past several days, some slide releases
have been remotely triggered and have quickly propagated long distances, as
well as releasing from unusual locations. This is not a trustworthy
snowpack. Stability tests and significant caution are advised before
venturing onto any steeper wind affected and/or wind loaded terrain.
Although heaviest snowfall of 1 to 3 feet was received in the Olympics and
Washington Cascades from about Mt Rainier northward and slightly less recent
snowfall was received in the southern Washington Cascades and Mt Hood areas,
strong winds near many exposed ridges combined with the new snowfall to
produce a generally increased danger in most areas, especially on lee
terrain above about 5 to 6000 feet where wind slabs ranging from 1 to 3 feet
remain probable early Saturday. While less new snowfall along the Cascade
east slopes Thursday produced an overall lower danger, a similarly unstable
snow structure resulted. Hence some shallower but still rather sensitive
soft slabs are still possible on lee slopes, especially in higher terrain
near the crest where such slabs should become a little larger and more
Weather and Avalanche Center
||Our team! Mike, Suzanne, Ira,
Kenny, Doerte, and Mike
Thanks to Kenny Kramer and Gary Brill for an
10.3 miles traveled, 2,700' skied.
Friends of the Northwest Weather and Avalanche