Thursday, March 1, 2012

Table Mountain Skiing

The wind scoured west face of Table Mountain

Snowpack evaluation

Pulling the pulk out Sunday morning.

More snowpack evaluation

Great powder skiing!

Last weekend was the second annual boys ski trip to the Table Mountain forest service cabin.  My friends Adam and Ryan were in attendance again this year along with my friend Richard and Adam's friend Colvin.

We skied the seven miles into the cabin on Friday under fairly nice weather arriving at 3:30 pm.  After shoveling out the door and splitting some firewood Richard and myself headed out to evaluate the snow conditions.  Having received a lot of new snow we were anticipating some great skiing.  Last year had been a bust when it came to new snow and we were hoping to make up for it this year.  We were hoping the west face of table mountain just a few minutes from the cabin would office some nice slopes.  Instead we found the west face to be wind scoured with just a few thin crusty drifts covering the rocks.  Richard and I returned to the cabin tired, hungry and a bit disappointed about the conditions.

That night we carefully studied the maps and satellite photos in hopes of finding a ski slope that could offer both good snow and be safe from avalanche hazards.  Cold dry weather conditions earlier this winter have left behind a hard crust.  New snow that has fallen on this crust has bonded poorly and created unstable conditions on many slopes throughout the Cascades.

Friday night and Saturday brought more snow and a bit of wind.  We headed out Saturday morning to our prospective ski slope and had a lovely tour through heavily wooded and very wintery terrain.  We arrived at the slope and evaluated the snowpack.  It didn't take long to find the week layer.  We performed a few different tests to evaluate the strength of the snow pack and decided that to be safe we would need to ski slightly lower angle terrain and stay near and around the trees that help anchor the snow pack.

The snow was light and powdery and we were able to get in four laps on a 500 foot run before returning to the cabin for a hot dinner of Adam's delicious Jambalaya.

Sunday we returned to the same ski slopes which were conveniently located halfway back to the trail head.  While Adam, Colvin, and Ryan headed home, Richard and I spend the better part of the day skiing untracked power.  The weather improved and I was able to capture some good photos you see here.

By four thirty temperatures began to drop and we headed for the car.  With light packs and a groomed road to follow we skiing the last fours miles in just under 40 minutes.  Richard, insistent on not using his ski skins impressed me by skating the entire distance.  I tried to keep up by alternating between double polling, classic and skate skiing.

Here is a link to a video of Richard and I evaluating the snow-pack in a test pit on Sunday.  In this video we have isolated a column of snow from the surrounding snow-pack.  We are attempting to quantify the strength (or perhaps weakness) of the weak hoarfrost layer.  We cut away only about forty percent of this layer using the back of a snow saw before the upper snow-pack breaks free.  This is the same week layer that has resulted in many avalanches in the cascades over the last few weeks.  By choosing our terrain wisely we were able to have a fun and safe day of skiing.

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