01 Jan - Powder

The bottom line: unfortunately lower altitude terrain (below 1800m) has a shallow rain crust that may become a hazardous problem. This is risky considering that nearly all of Hakuba's out-of-bounds inclined visitors want to ski the very easy access resort side country avalanche terrain which mostly sits below 1800m. A potentially bad combination. For example, I doubt I'll be skiing anything at all along the Goryu ridge for a while. It just is not worth the risk.

Today's report: Great snow quality. Very good smooth powder skiing on the right terrain. North aspects above 1800m in particularly had deep soft cold snow. Though I didn't go much higher so not sure when snow quality would have deteriorated from wind. South aspects are not much worse than north, however there is a sun crust that has frozen hard about 30-40 deep. Then as you ski below 1700m you'll hit the rain crust at a similar depth. At one stage I stood at the top of a steep deep perfect line of powder... and had to turn my back on it. I could feel the lure, strongly. However it skies at 35-40 degree for 400m vertical, with 45 rollovers lower down at the same altitude that I would have hit the buried rain crust. All into a terrain trap and also into a place I was not intending on going. It was the right decision, but the 100cm of unsettled deep powder at the top made it hard. On the flip side, there is something nice in knowing that as I turned my back on the line, no one else in the world today would be skiing it either. Or is that a competitive Human Factor? Would you only ski it just because you didn't want to watch someone else take it, even though you would otherwise choose not to??? I skied totally untouched powder on gentler terrain anyway, which was silent and smooth and deep enough.

Some things to keep in mind: at 1900m I saw virtually no wind transport, and a lot of deep snow available for transport. When the wind hits as forecast, the wind slab problem will move down the hill a long way. Also, keep an eye on the shallowly buried crusts from recent rain and sun (depending on aspect and altitude). There is the chance that they will become less stable with time. I measured temps below the crust and it is warm, not much below freezing. Yet the overlaying snow is much colder and relatively thin against an even colder air temperature. This can create new weak sugary crystals above the crust (and below). Here is some snow data for the technically minded: http://nadare.jp/snowbbs2/2013/01/post-83.html


Always a pleasure reading your reports Damian.......back in Feb with my son so will be keeping a close eye on the next month's developments. May see you out there. Cheers H

Hi Haydon, great to hear from you. And it would be nice to see you again in Hakuba. I hope the snowpack is deep and consistent and stable by Feb. -damian

Very little wind transport also in the Y area for the new snow on top of the rain crust. I was surprised by that and mentionned it to some friends as it is rather unusual for this area. As for your turning around, live to ski another day! I guess group heuristics are easier to manage when you're by yourself :-) Still a fascinating topic as highlighted by various recent high profile incidents.

Hi Arnaud, still not much wind at TL here either. At least not in the part of the valley I was today (Wed).

As for that slope I mentioned, I was never actually going to ski it in the first place, was never part of my plan at any stage in the day. I just passed by it and had to admit the lure was strong. Had I skied it through weakness, I would have deserved any bad outcome that happened.

There is something incredibly beautiful about a long steep deep slope of smooth powder just left sitting there untouched.