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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Sep 2006

    Spring to summer snowpack transition

    There seems to be little information in literature and technical discussions out there on this and wanted to spark a discussion.

    Outside of the occasional snowstorm, managing instabilities after the snowpack has transitioned to spring is relatively easy. Just ski on a morning after a hard freeze as the surface is starting to transition to corn and you are good to go on just about anything you want. But what happens when we start to lose the freezes, as is happening in Colorado right now? Obviously, the first few days and (weeks?) of this condition require caution and conservative terrain selection to manage the risks of a wet slide or wet slab avalanche. However, how does one judge, when the snowpack has undergone a transition to a summer snowpack such that the freezes no longer are required to maintain stability on steep terrain? Clearly, shortly after losing the freezes when you are sinking up to your thighs, things may be unstable and clearly well into the summer when the snow is well consolidated and the surface is hard regardless of the temperature, the risk of a slide is low. My question is more related to the transition between those two extremes. How do you judge when you no longer need the freezes to get back onto steeper terrain? Does the old rule of thumb of "sinking into the snow past your boot-tops" just always apply or is there some other criteria commonly used?
    Last edited by skiracer88_00; 06-07-2022 at 12:23 PM.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jan 2005
    cb, co
    Once the free water has thoroughly drained from the snowpack, I consider it transitioned to summer. Usually, even without a freeze, you won't find yourself sinking that deeply into a summer pack, except in thin areas around rocks. Even that can get surprisingly solid, too. My $.02

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