Backcountry Climbing Mountain Culture Mountaineering News

Return of La Niña!

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The cold and wet fall weather certainly has kick-started the ski season for many folks out there. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) we have now officially entered a La Niña phase for our second winter season in a row. La Niña years tend to give Western Canada a winter with below average temperatures and above average precipitation amounts. HALLELUJAH!

So far it seems as though Ullr agrees with the weather models and there are lots of social media and MIN reports out there confirming that we indeed have quite the early season snowpack setting up. At least for certain elevation bands. So, as you dust off your skis and avalanche safety equipment and brainstorm excuses to get out of class early or take a COVID-work-from-home day to snag some November turns… Here are some things you should keep in mind when you head out the door.

Early touring high in the alpine

If there is enough snow to ride it’s also enough to slide. Early season skiing is a fickle thing. You will spend most of your day touring up through BTL and TL elevations with snow levels barely at, or even below, threshold for avalanches and yet as you gain elevation and start poking into those upper treeline or alpine zones you will have to stay vigilant. Up high you could very well have a snowpack of a meter or meter and a half plus whatever the wind has deposited in lee features. You are going to have to make sure you re-evaluate as you go along and travel through these drastic spatial variabilities in snowpack depth.

If you do go out for some skiing, this is a great time to start collecting first-hand information about the snowpack. Any snow profile you dig right now will be quick and easy as there just isn’t that much snow yet. Now you can start tracking those early season melt-freeze crusts (Hello Nov 4th) which will be good to know going forward.

Gathering info on the snowpack

Post MIN reports to Avalanche Canada. As many guiding operations and ski hills have yet to fire up for the season this is a great time to help everyone out by giving Avalanche Canada as much information as possible. No matter your experience level, if you go out and dig in the snow or ski (or both), take pictures, take notes, and share them!

Take it easy. Remember, it’s only the second week of November. You have a full 5-6 months of skiing ahead of you if you are lucky. No need to risk a season-ending injury on day 2. So, watch out for those barely hidden stumps and rocks, keep it simple and enjoy the process of building up to a season full of fun and safe ski days! Also a good time to brush up on your companion rescue skills.

Companion Rescue Practice