General Snow and Weather Information

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November 25, 2015 7:30 am by Scott Savage

Bottom Line: The combination of 3-8" of new snow and moderate to strong winds will form fresh wind slabs in upper elevation terrain and in some exposed middle elevation terrain. Slabs should build in depth and width through Thursday. Unusual E winds may load slopes that are typically scoured - expect to find the small wind slabs in some "strange" places. The new wind slabs will rest above a thin, variable early season snowpack, making it easy for you to trigger small avalanches on some slopes and difficult to trigger slides on others.

We'll update this product as conditions dictate. Daily avalanche advisories are tentatively scheduled to begin in December (conditions dependent). Most of our weather stations are up and running, but we have some repairs to perform at the Soldier stations.

Snow and Weather History: The new snow is falling on a variable snow surface. Observers report weak, sugary faceted snow and surface hoar in many lower elevation locations. At upper elevations, temperature inversions (warm up high, cold down low) appear to have prevented widespread weak layer formation at the old snow surface; however, I'd expect to find some spooky crusts or crust + facet combinations on sunnier slopes. The middle and lower layers of the snowpack are truly a mixed bag: crusts, sugary facets, powder, etc. While few avalanches have been observed in recent weeks, moderate to strong E winds will load some slopes that rarely have much snow on them. Expect the brisk winds to deposit snow just below ridgelines and lower on slopes.

So what's it all mean? I don't expect this small storm to produce widespread instabilities, but I think skiers and riders could trigger avalanches on some slopes. Pay attention to obvious signs of instability like snowpack collapsing, whumphing noises, and cracks shooting out from your boards or sled. If you experience any of these tell-tale signs of instability, stick to less steep terrain or move to a slope with different snowpack layering. Even small avalanches can have big consequences if they pull you over cliffs or rocks, though trees, or bury you in a terrain trap.

Weather Discussion: An area of low pressure to our south continues to drive light to moderate snowfall today before tapering to flurries tonight into Thanksgiving day. One to 4" fell Tuesday and Tuesday night, favoring the northern Smoky and Sawtooth Mountains; expect an additional 4-8" in the Soldiers, 2-4" near Ketchum, and a trace-2" in the northern mountains. Temperatures cool during the day Wednesday, reaching the single digits to near zero F by Thanksgiving morning. Brisk moderate winds increase and shift from the E-SE to the E-NE-N. Thanksgiving Day brings gradually clearing skies, unseasonably cool temperatures, and continued moderate N-E winds. Expect mostly clear to partly cloudy skies with gradually warming temperatures Friday through Sunday.

Events: Check our Education and Events Calendar for upcoming classes and events. Be sure to stop by the open house at Woodside Motorsports from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 pm. on Saturday, December 5th. Avalanche Center staff will be on hand much of the day to fondle sleds and answer questions!

A huge thanks to Sun Valley for generously donating two season passes to support the avalanche center's mission. The first lucky winner was announced at the Baldy Big Dump - Pray for Snow Party last Saturday night at the Warfield. Thanks to the Friends and to everyone that made it out; the night was a huge success!

General Information

We love observations! Please let us know what you're seeing in the backcountry, especially if you see or trigger any avalanches. You can email us photos and observations at, fill out the Observations form on our website, or leave a message at 208-622-0095.