Having a skiable front country snowpack in the Methow Valley this season, it seemed worthwhile to do a report today after seeing considerable deterioration between layers while uptracking. Given, we have 1000k foot runs this year with nearly 100 cm of snowpack on them, some at 45 and 50 degrees along with a substantial widespread rain crust and wind event (in places) profiled within the upper 1/3 of the snowpack where folks on skis sleds, and snowshoes, again, it seemed worthwhile to submit a report here.
The current outlook calls for daily warming at or just above freezing for the next few days which should allow these various layers the opportunity to consolidate, the most important consolidation necessary exists below the existing rain crust, which is found, depending on terrain and aspect, 4" to 7" and seems to include no rounded wind loading granules, at least within the Elbow Coulee drainage, above the considerable rain crust formed in late Dec. Importantly, where that rain crust did not form as thick as it is on South, SE and SW, and East slopes, which is nearly a half inch and capable of supporting a descending skier (personal observation only), it was not capable of supporting an ascending skier always and would collapse an area of around 6' diameter when it did fail. Importantly, what is below that rain crust does include wind event granules of varied depths, which would propagate, under that rain crust the last few days, but not with as much ease as it did today in the afternoon of 1/6. I'll post the video taken of today's pit and an image of that pit post-failure and a pole dug pit which the upper layer failed at after loading it with two four-inch pole baskets to a depth of 5".
It's assumable this week's warming trend will settle this snowpack if it can penetrate that rain crust, otherwise, there will be 4-7 inches of snowpack, plus whatever we get in the next cycles; however, if the rain crust is not penetrated or deteriorated the existing unconsolidated previous snow will remain as various failable layers that are there, and deep enough in this front country snowpack to release as possible D2 and R3, again, assumably.
There were a few, post-rain-crust-event, natural release avalanches of D4 and D3, Catagory R3, which did cover the Elbow Coulee Road and appeared to fail on the Late November, Early December snow layers at the bottom of the snowpack. Those were on both West and East facing slopes eliminating the possibility that they were wind slab related.
In the photos section I'll include some other pits dug in the last few days.
I'll (hopefully) embed a Youtube video here of the pit dug today, 1/6. 🤞. If it doesn't pop up you could follow the link...