Front Range Conditions: Weekend of May 17

The Front Range’s spring ski mountaineering season is in full effect. 

What, spring you say? 

Yes, spring. 

But it is almost June!

That is correct. It is almost June, but winter is just now moving out of the Colorado high country. Last week the Arapahoe Basin ski area received nearly 40 inches of snow. According to the article by the Daily Camera, the snowpack in the South Platte River Basin had been 121 percent of average, but after the snow fell over Mother’s Day weekend, that number reached 145 percent.   

With all of this snow fall, we sent the Front Range Ski Mountaineering R&D team to the peaks to see how the new snow was settling in.  Here is what we found:

Saturday: A trip up the Stevens Gulch area near Grays and Torreys Peaks revealed that you won’t be able to drive past the first switchback before needing to park. The snow blocks the road from cars and trucks at this point (for now).  We walked on intermittent snow and dirt to the fork with the Grizzly Gulch Road, and then skied on skins up the remainder of the road. The temperatures were warm down low and a full freeze did not occur.  The clouds from the night before prevented this, and there were several loose slide releases during the day.  It was hot spring conditions below tree line and winter above tree line.  Reports from Kelso’ North Couloir was that the top was chalky powder and slush at the bottom of the gully. A skier triggered wet slab late in the day on a northeast aspect below tree line on Ganley Mountain originated from a single turn that slid on the dust layer and ran about 500 vertical feet (R3, D2).

Sunday: A clear night resulted in a deeper freeze and the newer snow beginning to bond to the older snow.  Front Range Skimo R&D explored Herman Gulch and discovered intermittent snow immediately on the trail. Skinning began near the flats at approximately 10,800’. The basin was active and there were obvious loose slough slides on the north side of Citadel, and it appears these slides prevented skiers from descending the Northeast Couloir (Snoopy’s Backside).  Larger natural wet avalanches occurred in the basin during the day. There was a freeze, but it got hot fast.  Word from the Gore Range is that the Silver Couloir on Buffalo was a “shit show” and that about 800 feet down the couloir small release (presumably occurring on Saturday) had widened into a large wet slide and mowed down the lower couloir leaving debris and heavy wet snow.  

Check out our Twitter handle @frskimo for some landscape pictures from this weekend. Be safe out there!