Santiam Pass conditions

Red Flags:

Saturday, Apr 13, 2019 10:51 PM
Alexander Vasarab
Santiam Pass Area (including Three Finger Jack) (44.438082, -121.855544)
Ob Date/Time:
Sat, Apr 13, 2019 - 9:22 AM
Report Type:
Snow Conditions
Mode of Travel:
Ski or Snowboard

Written Report:
I was touring in the Moon Mountain and Santiam Pass areas the past two days (Friday and Saturday). Nothing remarkable in the Moon Mountain vicinity other than small-ish but reactive cornices (see video; not surprising but fun). Santiam Pass was more interesting given the storm, so I will focus on Saturday in this report, which took place in the terrain north of highway 20, between 12pm and 6pm, at elevations 4760'-5111'.

Weather: Just after noon (SE aspect @ 4905') winds were out of the west, moderate gusting strong. The sky was overcast and the air temperature was 5 deg C with no precipitation or blowing snow (in fact, the snow surface was quite moist, I don't think anything was available for transport). By 2pm (E aspect @ 4964'), winds were lighter, the sky was obscured, and snow was falling (approximately 1-2 cm per hour). By 5:30pm (flat summit @ 5111'), nothing had changed except that winds were strong and precipitation had tapered to a lower rate (1 cm per hour). I saw ample blowing snow while the winds were gusting, loading the NE and E aspects.

Snowpack: The snow surface was moist at the start of the day. Boot penetration ranged from 10cm to 30cm, and the height of the snowpack ranged from 200-220cm in flat areas not atop points of prominence. The new snow that was falling was approximately 1mm in size at 2pm. We did not discover any evidence of wind slabs in the terrain that we observed (4800'-5100'), but we did see lots of cornices on E and SE aspects. All day, snow sent by ski turns did result in small rollerballs on slopes as steep or steeper than 30 degrees but they never ran more than 5 vertical feet.

Avalanches and/or signs of instability: We observed old debris on a NNE aspect that resembled broken cornice chunks. This slope sat below a complex of cornices, as well. Unfortunately, by the time we saw it, it had been snowing for a couple of hours making it difficult to approximate its age. Otherwise, we observed no avalanches. We skied small slopes up to 37 degrees on a variety of aspects (NE-S) and experienced no signs of instability.

Skiing conditions improved as more snow fell, but also caused us to begin avoiding the NE-E aspects that we had grown comfortable skiing, due to an abundance of caution with the new and growing load on leeward slopes. We observed wind-scoured snow surfaces on N and W aspects around 4pm. Visibility was quite good until the snow began falling around 1pm.