Finding sufficient coverage for backcountry skiing/snowboarding will be very difficult. Avalanches are unlikely, but may be possible near and above treeline where wind slabs may have developed. It is important to note that our thin snowpack will be subject to zonal metamorphism, based on aspect, elevation and other environmental factors. Thin and cold snowpacks often become weak over time, and may fail during or after a big snowfall - something to think about if we get that big dump that we are all hoping for.
Currently, year to date snowfall is at 29" at 10,800', with a settled base depth of about 20". To contrast, last year on 1-23-17, year to date snowfall topped 200".
Near and Above Treeline:Although unlikely to create significant hazard, isolated wind slabs may exist on the highest slopes near ridgelines. On January 21st, strong mid-mountain winds were observed (30-60 mph from the NNW). Coverage may be poor due to wind stripping on windward slopes, with variable wind drifts on leeward features.
Also note that the most recent 11" storm (January 20/21) started with a layer of graupel snow in many locations. Graupel weak layers commonly stabilize in about a day or two after a storm, depending on temperature.
Coverage is thin to non existent above treeline, except in wind loaded areas. There may be a weak wind crust on the surface, sastrugi features, and hollow dry snow beneath creating highly variable ski conditions.
Below Treeline:With ~25" of snow at mid-mountain elevations, coverage is not sufficient for safe skiing/riding. Rocks and logs will be your primary hazard.
KPAC is presenting a FREE Introduction to Avalanche seminar at Aspen Sports, 15 N San Francisco St, Flagstaff, AZ 86001, Thursday February 8, 6:00 p.m. Please come join us!
Arizona Snowbowl is making snow and open. "Currently, uphill travel on terrain within the Arizona Snowbowl ski area is unavailable due to mountain operations and construction projects."
However, access to the Humphrey's and Kachina trails are available from the lower lots. Be sure to acquire a winter backcountry permit from the USFS.
Updated January 21, 2017:
On January 10th a low pressure system deposited 14" of snow @ 10,800 ft., our first significant storm snow of the season. A second system dropped 11" on January 20/21. The Snowslide Snotel reports a 12" snow depth and ~2.8" of SWE.
From NWS Flagstaff, AZ:
Expect a warming trend starting Monday as a ridge rebuilds over the southwest. A fast-moving cold front will bring strong winds to northern Arizona on Thursday with a few showers possible late Thursday or Friday. A strong ridge of high pressure is expected to build over the Desert Southwest next weekend.