Finding sufficient coverage for backcountry skiing/snowboarding is still difficult, but it has gotten a little better. Unfortunately getting to and from good coverage will involve hiking over rocks.
Avalanches may be possible near and above treeline where wind slabs have developed on northerly aspects. Cracking wind slabs were observed on northeasterly slopes of Snowslide Canyon and Fremont Peak.
Except for shady and northerly aspects, much of our thin early season snowpack melted prior to the Valentine Storm Cycle. This new snow is a welcome relief but many rocks and logs will be hiding just under the snow surface.
Currently, year to date snowfall is at 45" at 10,800', with a settled base depth of about 28".
Near and Above Treeline:Many above treeline, southerly slopes were stripped by southerly winds. This snow may have loaded up leeward slopes near ridgelines, possibly creating unstable slabs. Today we observed cracking wind slabs on the northeasterly slopes of Snowslide Canyon and Fremont Peak. Warm weekend temperatures may make these slabs more reactive.
Below Treeline:With ~28" of snow at mid-mountain elevations, coverage is still thin. Rocks and logs will be your primary hazard. The most northerly aspects will have the best coverage, but it will still be thin.
Watch out for small isolated slabs of new dense snow perched on older weaker snow. Arizona Snowbowl Ski Patrol did observe a new dense snow slab release on lift line of chair 1 below midway.
Watch out for wind slabs and/or wind loading on northwesterly, northerly, northeasterly and easterly slopes.
Today we observed cracking wind slabs on the northeasterly slopes of Snowslide Canyon and Fremont Peak. Warm weekend temperatures may make these slabs more reactive.
Reactive slabs are not wide spread, but they are out there.
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 Feb 15, 2018:
Over the last week ironclad high pressure broke down after an extended period of deflecting mid latitude cyclonic weather to our north. This finally allowed a warm storm to bounce around our region, delivering significant wet snow to elevation above 8000’, starting on February 10th and lasting till the15th. Precipitation has occurred gradually and continuously through this period with a brief break on Valentines Day. Storm totals of 15-18 inches of high-density snow fell at elevation above 10,800’. Snowslide SNOTEL station recorded 9 inches of new snow and 2.5 inches of water (SWE) at 9700’ – Pretty wet stuff.
Of more importance, the storm circulation pattern has changed, potentially opening up our region for more incoming weather. Although the models and having trouble making up their collective minds, it appears there may be precipitation on the way this coming week. Could winter finally be on the horizon?
On Thursday evening, February 15th the Inner Basin SNOTEL site (Snowslide Canyon) reported a snow depth of 19 inches (12.7 cm) at 9700’, and Arizona Snowbowl reported a settled base of 27 inches (68.6 cm) at 10800'. So far this winter, 45 inches (114 cm) of snow has fallen at the mid-mountain study site. Since February 9th, SNOTEL temperatures ranged between 11° and 49° F.