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I don't want to bury the lede, so I'll just come out and say it...there's a ton of snow out there. I decided to head up Gray Butte to check things out. Mostly, I was curious if the relatively calm winds last night had finally delivered some snow without forming huge wind slabs. A rarity it seems this winter.
The skin track up was less a track, and much more of a trench. Without significant compaction, our skin track was still well over 18 inches deep in places. Some slow going, for sure. Driving up to the park in the morning, significant spindrift was visible off of the upper mountain, so I was anticipating fairly strong winds at the exposed top of Gray Butte.
Making my way up there, I kept bracing for the expected wind but, other than a few stray gusts, it never materialized. Whether it had died down by then, or it was localized to the upper mountain, it's hard to say. But there was very little evidence of wind texturing or wind-slabs forming, even near the very top.
While stomping hard on a couple test slopes, I did manage to cause some blocks to break loose. But nothing alarming, and certainly less than I had imagined going into the day. I didn't find significant wind-loading on any aspects, with the southern slopes holding about 20 inches of new snow. Frankly, it's a little hard to determine where the "new" snow ends, and the "slightly less new snow" begins.
With so much new snow, it's important to think outside the "avalanche-hazard box" and remember that there are other things out there. Be extremely wary of treewells. They are very prevalent right now. I skied right by a couple that are easily person-eating size. Keep your head on a swivel!
- Observation Location: Gray Butte
- Elevation: 8,000 ft
- Date: 20230308
- Time: 1200
- Observer: Casey G
- Sky Conditions: Broken and Overcast, alternating
- Current Precipitation: Light snow flurries
- Air Temperature: Below freezing
- Surface Penetration: Ski penetration 10-14 in, boot penetration 25 in
- Wind Direction: N-NW
- Wind Speed: Light