This will be the final weekly backcountry report for the season since I will be away taking on some very positive and challenging professional mountain experiences outside of Hakuba.
The Last Week
Mid and late last week backcountry conditions were mostly great, though it took a few days for the thick and hard Feb 14th rain crust to be buried. That crust extends way up into the alpine and has so far produced little instability (at least none I have heard of within the network of professionals who bother to share their observations on a good-will basis). That crust is still down there, about 100cm deep at treeline, depending where you probe in the valley. The highlight last week was one day of cold clear and calm weather with powder skiing in the high alpine. Rare. But it took considerable uncertainty and some specific terrain risks that I bet many had no idea they were even taking. This snowpack forgives so much. Into the weekend the sun baked sunny aspects and air temperature rose and powder skiing was only available on shaded aspects, though there was a lot of it.
On Saturday night it rained again to 2000m or so, followed by snow. There are sun crusts on south aspects. There is 50-80cm of new-ish storm snow and windslab at 2200m. Good skiing in the right spots.
The Next Week
Looks good! On and off light snowfall, with a few short but heavier pulses possible. Remaining cold, relatively light winds, with periods of weather clear enough to work the alpine. Potentially a very good week of backcountry skiing is coming. But more snow is needed below treeline to cover the last rain event.
As I leave Hakuba for places very different, I am reminding myself to not carry over Japanese snowpack decision making to more variable and dangerous snowpacks that await me. We should all remember not to take potentially fatal bad habits acquired in Japan - where the snowpack is so forgiving - to places where the snowpack is far more touchy for longer periods of time and over greater space. Enjoy spring and share your snow and avalanche observations, we are all in this together. See you in Tateyama in late April. And don't forget those rain crusts, that Mediterranean-latitude solar radiation, and sporadic rapid loads of cold snow in March.