Flagstaff, Arizona - Backcountry of The San Francisco Peaks and Kachina Peaks Wilderness
Format and Limitations Statement
The current snowpack in the Kachina Peaks has proved to be high in strength, poor in structure, and shows little propagation propensity. The crust / facet layer associated with the December 4th rain event is still evident in test pits, however, even with this poor structure avalanches are unlikely. Current snow surfaces are a mix of wind and sun crust in exposed areas while pockets of soft snow linger in isolated, protected areas.
Things will change Saturday with a significant precipitation event with moderate SW winds leading to an increased likelihood of both human triggered and natural avalanches. Venturing out on tours into this new snow with an "assessment" mindset by selecting conservative terrain in which to gather information will serve travelers well. Read more about Strategic Mind-Sets
Look for an updated snowpack summary over the weekend.
Ice axe and crampons are strongly recommended as surface conditions can be very firm depending on the time of day and temperature. Always be cautious of wind slab formation on steep, leeward slopes. Observe for local signs of wind stripping and subsequent loading on leeward aspects wherever you travel above treeline. Where wind has not scoured snow, depths remain at 1-2 meters. New snow falling on these firm surfaces may be reactive, potentially sluffing with little provocation. Approach steep terrain with caution.
With a decrease in elevation comes a decrease in snow depth. Obstacles become the main hazard below 9500 feet, but are present on all aspects at all elevations. Sunny and southerly slopes below 9500 feet are getting difficult to navigate with skis. Always expect the unexpected. As new snow falls, obstacles may become covered and hidden just below the surface. Ski and snowboard with care after new snow.
If the weather forecast holds true, storm slab avalanches will become more likely in steep terrain. Watch out for "bulls eye" data; collapses or shooting cracks that indicate instability in the snowpack and heed their warning by staying in simple terrain. Remember that this snow is falling on bare ground in wind scoured areas, or slick wind hardened snow surfaces which may prove to be an excellent bed surface.
As snow becomes available for transport, approach ridges and leeward terrain with caution. Wind can deposit snow 10 times more rapidly than snow falling from the sky multiplying the load on the snowpack. Be suspicious of any steep slope with recent deposits of wind drifted snow.