It was a really nice day in the Crystal backcountry. A few high-thin clouds crossed the area from time to time but didn't have much of an impact on the sun. Occasional ridgeline gust were felt, but winds were mostly light from the SW. Temperatures were warm with a multi-layered inversion in the morning becoming all warm in the afternoon.
No new avalanches were seen, however, you can still see several large crowns and debris piles from the Jan 6-8 and 11-12 cycles.
If I were to sum up the snow surface, I think "variable" would be the word.
SE-SW aspects: These are the slopes where the recent melt-freeze cycle has caused the greatest change. A very thick and strong melt-free crust exists uniformly across these slopes. The surface softened today with SE aspects developing an inch or two of spring-like corn snow by 1030am. S and SW slopes followed later in the day. At no point did my boot sink deeper than about 2-3" on these slopes. Because the sun is still so low in the sky, as soon as a slope lost direct sunshine, it would begin icing over again. E and W aspects did not soften at all where I traveled today.
NW-N-NE aspects: Near surface facets were the most predominant grain on the surface of northerly facing terrain. Often a thin (1cm) breakable melt-freeze crust was also found on N-facing slopes sitting over several inches (6-8cm) of sugary facets before a much firmer and thicker crust. In wind exposed terrain and where rain runnels (bumps) are still visible, icy surfaces were found.
Large 6-8mm columnar and feathery surface hoar was observed on many open slopes below treeline despite aspect. The sun likely broke this surface hoar down ons steep southerly slopes. I did not find surface hoar in near treeline elevations start zones.