Early Season Report On The Duffey Lake Road

Blowdown Pass

I have heard people speaking of powder depression in the last few weeks, and thinking that it is best to keep rolling with mountain biking and the other summer activities they are used to. It rained last week – wow a lot of rain – and if it had of been a little colder, we could have been looking at the Snowpocolypse of a few seasons ago. How fickle the weather is and our collective moods hang in the balance.

I will let you in on a little secret. There is snow! Good snow at that, but there is a catch. It takes an enormous amount of effort to get to it and requires slogging through alder and logging roads for a long time to string together some turns.

This weekend I was willing to go to great lengths to find the snow and what we found was good. Sun and powder was aided by some motorized tools but that is half the fun anyways. So what are the conditions like?

Below 1500m
Sadly, below 1500m it is virtually un-skiable outside the ski resorts. There is enough coverage on the logging roads to get up the alpine, but as us coasties know that approach lengths without a snowmobile make day trips a major slog to say the least. Therefore the list of places to earn turns unaided are pretty minimal and you will likely need to bring a machete to fight back the alder.

Above 1500m
Above 1500m it gets interesting, opens to a few smooth slopes which can be skied. But it really isn’t until reaching 1800m and above that there is what I would call snow worth skiing. There is coverage and powder, but it still isn’t without the normal hazards like crevasses, holes and creek beds.

So what should you look for right now to find good skiing?
North facing slopes above 1800m. At least for now, unless the winds change to create an ultimate fubar on everything. Find slopes that are smooth terrain surfaces such as grassy slopes. Avoid boulder fields to avoid the early season land mines.

One thing we need to watch on the coast right now is the snowpack. There are a number of layers of crusts and facets buried, depending on terrain. We can report heavy wind transportation, windslabs and a tricky surface storm layer that reacted very easily in compression tests. Welcome to another year of non coastal conditions! But don’t let the perceived lack of snow prevent you from getting out. When was the last time you got to ski in the sun in December? Till the next storm we pray for powder!

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