Freezing levels fluctuate pretty wildly here on the coast, from ground level one day and 2000m the next. This past weekend was no exception to the inversion typically experienced in early ski season. A predicament at times, yes, but not with these tips and cheat sheet for zones to hit no matter the freezing level.
Key Zone Starting Elevations
Coquihalla Summit: 1244m
Cayoosh Pass: 1275m
Mt Baker Ski Resort: 1070m
Mt Seymour Parking Lot: 1020m
With a freezing level of 1000m or lower, any of the listed locations will be a good choice. The difficulty however comes when freezing levels start at 1500m. A few notes on the decision making process when this occurs:
Monitor precipitation in the past week and associated freezing levels
Monitor each storm (or lack there of), volume of snow, freezing level and wind direction. Most of this info can be gathered from the resources on the previous post, Weather Forecasts. By determining the highest freezing level of recent storms, I can then develop a short list of the most ideal locations.
Determine best (forecasted) aspect
Using the wind directions for the week coupled with the amount of sunny days will help determine the best aspects to ski. If it was sunny all week, it’s likely a crust has developed on S/W/E facing slopes.
Balancing Avalanche forecasts
After examining the weather conditions I then refer to the avalanche forecast. This is the final step to determine if the ideal location (based on weather) is also ideal based on avalanche warnings and high risk factors. This will help us determine how high (in the alpine or to tree line) we can safely travel.
Best Selections Based on Aspect / Freezing Level
S. Needle Peak – Start: 1220m Top: 2100m Best skiing between 2100m and 1700m
SE Thar Peak – Start: 1170m Top: 1920m Best skiing between 1920m to 1400m
S Rohr Ridge – Start: 1310m Top: 1980m Best Skiing between 1980m to 1500m
Zoa Peak – Start: 1170m Top: 1860m Best Skiing between 1860m to 1600m
Chief Pascal – Start: 1280m Top: 2200m Best skiing between 1800m to 1400m
Tree Skiing Areas (for times when it dumps snow)
Needle Peak Approach Slope
Lower slopes of Chief Pascal and Joffre shoulder
Cayoosh Approach Road Cut block
Freezing levels around 1500m shouldn’t keep you from getting great turns. You just need to find the right location! Remember, freezing levels are never exactly as forecasted and snow always falls below the freezing level. That is why it important to note where the good skiing elevations are for your favorite areas. Start building a log and take your GPS. This will help you pinpoint the best runs and therefore the best elevations.