InstaBase – Just Add Water

| January 25, 2012

The weather gods must have read the Angry Half Inch posting, as they retaliated with a magnificent storm over the past week. It was a classic rager from the Pacific Northwest which finally made it through the Idaho high pressure road block (can’t that state be moved?) and delivered a good 2-4′ base. It took place during the Sundance Film Festival and the local newspaper reported 180 stuck cars during the event. The storm included some very high winds, and why not – it you are going to have a ton of new snow on top of a fragile base of depth hoar, you might as well ice the cake with some serious wind loading.

Avalanche-wise, it is not great, but I’m glad it came in as a big hammer instead of a bunch of little storms which would only delay the inevitable avalanche cycle. From what I’ve seen in the Wasatch backcountry, a lot of the big slopes naturally avalanched during the storm and are now starting over. That said, I doubt some of the major north-facing lines will ever be very safe to ski this year. Oh well. We had a dangerous year in 2008/09 and it was fun to work out a bunch of safe, low angle tours and I’m sure those will be getting some skin tracks this season as well.

Big, open slopes like this, especially those with cornices, are an obvious danger at times like this, but many naturally avalanched during the storm.

After a big storm like this, a lot of times the backcountry isn’t that great as you have to find a slope that is steep enough to ski down, yet not steep enough to slide, which limits your options to about a 5-degree window. This storm however deposited thick, supportable powder and there is plenty of GFP (Ghey Flat Powder) to be had. Big slopes that haven’t ripped yet are still an obvious concern, but an even bigger issue are the thousands of innocuous house-sized pockets that are big enough to bury you, especially in terrain traps like creek beds.

The Wasatch backcountry is filled with little traps like this - small slopes you normally wouldn't think twice about skiing, but now have a heavy, sensitive slab on them.

Help support and play it safe with an ABS AvalancheRescue Devices Powder Line 5 Backpack from Click on the photo below…

Category: current conditions

About the Author ()

Andrew McLean lives in Park City, Utah and is a gear designer, writer, photographer, ski mountaineer, climber, Mountain Unicycle rider and father of two very loud little girls.

Comments (7)

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  1. Paddy says:

    So we Idahoans have ONE better snow year than the Wasatch and you’re already hating….. :-)

  2. Smokey says:

    Just import some folks from Jackson. They’ll surely center punch all thoes questionable, steep north facers for ya. You know, clear things out…

  3. Smokey says:

    kidding ;)…the interwebs can be so sensitive these dayz.

  4. notasradasyou says:

    Effing hilarious Smokey. The interwebs is very sensitive. Andrew is gonna get thrashed for his creative use of Ghey.

    I am definitely ripping off GFP to reference all that hopelessly kinda shitty fruit booter terrain. Thanks Andrew.

    Also, I really appreciate the great analysis and looking forward with the snowpack. I have always had that same respect for the “bad” years when the northers or other slopes are off limits till spring.


  5. Ralph S. says:

    Usually, Utah sucks enough that storms move straight in… You know, you aren’t that from us up here that you can’t come ski the Sawtooths when all else fails down there!

  6. Ron Simenhois says:

    Hi Andrew,

    I am putting together a presentation on for the International Snow Science Workshop in Anchorage, September 16-21, 2012. I would like to get your permission to use a photo from your website ( in my presentation. Please let me know if that OK and how should I credit it too.

    Ron Simenhois

  7. Andrew says:

    Hi Ron – Please feel free to use it. You can credit it to me, or… not. It sounds like it is for a good cause.

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