If you are recreating, please do so responsibly. This includes following social distancing requirements, not taking actions that risk pulling emergency service workers away from the important work they’re doing, or compromising their ability to continue that work.
To prevent spread of COVID-19, please do not travel to Flagstaff for recreation. If you are local to Flagstaff and choose to head to the backcountry, every effort should be made to avoid injuries. Now is not the time to visit a hospital which may be overwhelmed due to COVID-19. Know the conditions and know your limits!
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.
Near and Above Treeline: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.
Below Treeline: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.
Always carry the 10 essentials and avalanche rescue gear for wintertime wilderness travel. Practice with your avalanche rescue gear. There is still space available in our avalanche courses.
Submit your observations here. You may save a life! The link to this form is now on our home page and snowpack menu.
For information on uphill travel within the Arizona Snowbowl ski area, please refer to www.flagstaffuphill.com and https://www.snowbowl.ski/the-mountain/uphill-access/ for details.
Updated on Friday February 21
Seasonally warm temperatures came to northern Arizona this last week, with the warmest days being Sunday and Wednesday, with temperatures reaching into the upper 30’s on Sunday at the ASBTP (11,555 ft) station. Night time temperatures have primarily been in the low 20's at the same station. Breezy afternoons have brought light to moderate winds out of the North throughout the week.
This weekend brings a low-pressure system over northern Arizona, models are in agreement providing approximately half an inch of water. With a freezing level above 8,000 feet, snow is only expected at high elevations. This could become 6-10 inches of snow on the Peaks. A dry, cold front will bring cool temperatures early in the week. As high pressure builds, so does the potential for warmer temperatures throughout the week. At the moment no further precipitation is in the forecast.
Arizona Snowbowl reported a 52" (132 cm) base at 10,800 feet. Snowslide SNOTEL shows erratic reports, between 14" and 31" at 9,730 feet. So far this winter, we have had 147" (373 cm) of snowfall at 10,800 feet.
Since February 14th, SNOTEL temperatures have ranged between 48°F on February 15th and 12° F on February 14th and 20th. ASBTP station (11,555 ft) reported a low of 17°F on February 19th and a high of 38°F on February 16th.