SMG Mt. Shasta Backcountry Conditions report 3.26.15

With new snow and cooler than normal temps there really was no choice but to head up the mountain and check on ski and avalanche conditions, cracked ribs or not!

Monday was a bit of a surprise to see stars in the morning so we left SMG HQ for a quick hike up the gulch. There are few vistas more inspiring than a newly frosted Mt. Shasta. The first round brought 8-10″ of new light density snow, perhaps a foot in places with gusty blowing winds above 9,000′

Mt. Shasta March 20115

Mt. Shasta March 2015

Another smaller system added a few more inches Tuesday with snow levels down to 5,000′. With clearing forecast for Wednesday and above normal temps coming this week, we decided to head back up before the sun and wind did any significant damage and enjoy the winter-like snow sliding.

Jen Carr skinning up the Gulch, good turns await!

Jen Carr skinning up the Gulch, good turns await!

Apparantly many others were thinking the same, I was somewhat surprised to see so many people out climbing and skiing mid week so early in the season. There were multiple groups of visiting skiers and riders and it’s fun to be out with so many stoked backcountry shredders! Mt. Shasta has been a focal point for West Coast backcountry skiing and this will only increase this Spring as resorts continue to close early for the 2015 season.

We are somewhat concerened for wet slide activity as the temps climb today and this week. Last week’s storms produced some good size wet slides. We now have additional snow and with the observed winds this week, the upper slopes of Casaval Ridge and the Trinity Chutes will certainly be loaded.

caswetslide

Wet slide avalanches March 2015 ph: BH

These slopes also receive the most solar input and we’re pretty confident we’ll see a repeat of wet slides from steep south east aspects. Heads up today (3.26) especially and into the weekend.

The USFS Mt. Shasta Avalanche Center issued a  midweek update on Monday afternoon. Stability tests indicated good bonding with the new snow at mid elevations. However, good timing and cautious route finding will be essential to minimize hazard from the forecasted warm temps this week. There may be some wind slabs which developed as well so heads up if venturing onto the upper mountain.

After a lackluster winter, it’s easy to let our guard down when the sun is shining and temps are mild, but lets not be complacent. We observed several red flag factors; new snow, wind transport, and now warming temps. Please be cautious out there!

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Upcoming Highlights

April 3-7 Denali Prep Course  (2 spaces available)

April 17-20 Mt. Shasta/Shastina Cascade 2 for 1. Bakcountry ski and snowboard seminar.

Climbing Mt. Shasta 2015

March has arrived and we find ourselves in a mild high pressure weather window. Hardly the lion we were hoping for, but we can enjoy the snow coated Mt. Shasta while tracking the jet stream for our next storm system. Historically March can be very wintery and wet in Northern California, there is some hope on the horizon for additional snow next week. And despite the talk of drought, we have been very fortunate on Mt. Shasta to receive significant storms this year to put our snow pack about average for 2015. And average=awesome on this Cascade peak!

Welcome sign at Horse Camp, Mt. Shasta

Welcome sign at Horse Camp, Mt. Shasta

Current Conditions: We did receive a modest amount of new snow last Friday-Saturday (2/27-28). Enough to smooth the snowpack and reset the climbing and skiing, but not quite enough for prolonged powder turns. With the mild temps on tap this weekend, we expect yet another excellent corn cycle on Mt. Shasta. There is several feet of snow at the trailhead and above 8,000′ the pack is smooth and mostly consolodated. A slight concern for isolated wind slabs but otherwise low avalanche hazard exists. Best skiing will be on south and east aspects during the warmest part of the day. Climbing is possible with good, winter conditions on all routes. There will be icefall concern as the weather warms later this week from the upper mountain shedding rime ice.

Mt. Shasta local pro Forrest Coots skis around the avalanche debris in Avalanche Gulch March 3rd

Mt. Shasta local pro Forrest Coots skis around avalanche debris in Avalanche Gulch March 3rd

Upcoming highlights: As mentioned above, we’re just slightly above normal (102%) for our water this year. The mild and wet storms that we received translated into a deep, consolodated upper mountain snowpack. This means Spring and Summer will have excellent climbing and ski mountaineering on Mt. Shasta this year.

The West Face of Mt. Shasta and Shastina

The West Face of Mt. Shasta and Shastina

We are offering a new program this year for motivated adventure seekers; a Cascade 2 for 1. A chance to climb both Mt. Shasta and Shastina in a single trip! April 17-20 will be our new Ski and Snowboard Mountaineering Seminar. 4 days camped in Hidden Valley with the goal of skiing the West Face Gully on Mt. Shasta and the Southeast Face of Shastina.

Perfect corn skiing on Shastina's Diller Canyon

Dr. Sean Malee SMG’s Medical Advisor skiing perfect corn on Shastina’s Diller Canyon

April 28-May 1 will be for the climbers with the same goal but hopefully epic glissading down the routes! For mountaineers looking for an extra challenge and the opportunity to explore Shastina, one of the Cascades  hidden gems!

Dane Brinkley topping out on Shastina with Sean Malee and Nick Caselli

Dane Brinkley topping out on Shastina with Sean Malee and Nick Caselli

Local Senior Guide Dane Brinkley has been keeping busy leading our day ski tours. He’s stoked to find the best snow on the mountain and will be available for our Serendipity Day Tours this winter and spring.

Although it’s been an interesting winter, we’re hoping to see several more storms before spring really sets in. It’s always hard to predict but it’s hardly unusual to see cold, wet weather in April and May. The prime climbing season is just around the corner and we’re fired up for our 33rd season on the Mountain! As always, contact us for the latest conditions, we’re on the Mountain daily.

Mt. Shasta Backcountry Report 2.11.15

Attention skiers and winter enthusiasts; if you’re looking for your snow fix, Mt. Shasta is the place to be! It’s been a wet and wild week here with some of the heaviest precip ever recorded. We finished with almost 10″ of water falling in town and over 5+ feet of new snow above 8,500′ on the Mountain. Our snowpack is close to 120% of normal and the skiing and riding doesn’t get any better!

ski tracks and avalanche debris in Avalanche Gulch Mt. Shasta 2.10.15

ski tracks and avalanche debris in Avalanche Gulch Mt. Shasta 2.10.15

Although the snow levels fluctuated quite a bit, for the most part the precip fell as snow on Mt. Shasta except for Sunday which saw some very soggy skiers braving the wet conditions. Fortunately, it cooled off, the snow pack consolidated, and the storm finished with a cool topping for perfect ripping ski conditions. Snow sliders are estatic this week with excellent riding found on many aspects.

Jenn Carr earning her turns in Avalanche Gulch Mt. Shasta

Jenn Carr earning her turns in Avalanche Gulch Mt. Shasta

Tuesday morning (2.10.15), the sun broke out and displayed what we were all waiting for, a completely snow cloaked Mt. Shasta. We are thrilled because not only is the snow creating some epic backcountry skiing currently, but this last storm cycle has pretty much guaranteed that we will have excellent conditions this Spring and Summer for climbing and sliding.

Mt. Shasta backcountry skiing February 2015

Mt. Shasta backcountry skiing February 2015

The big concern with all this rapidly accumulating snow is the increased avalanche hazard. The Mt. Shasta Avalanche Center issued an Avalanche Watch this past weekend and we did observe some activity in Avalanche Gulch which likely occured during the peak of the storm. We did see some significant settling and consolodation, but I would still avoid runout zones and exposure to slopes above.

Our classroom for the Avalanche Seminar with Dane and Nick our fantastic instructors

The classroom for the Level I Avalanche Seminar with Dane and Nick our course instructors

 

We are in a break in the storms and this weekend is forecasted for nice weather and mild temps. This is excellent for our AIARE Level I Avalanche Seminar on Mt. Shasta and we invite you to join us if you have been putting it off. The conditions are perfect for the course and Mt. Shasta will be beautiful under all the Winter snow!

We’re hopefully getting back into storms next week. Be safe and have great fun, we hope to see you on the Mountain!

 

SMG/The Fifth Season Mt. Shasta Backcountry Ski Report 12.22.14

This season we’ll be posting regular ski and snow conditions reports from the Mt. Shasta backcountry. Partnering with local skiers, The Fifth Season, and the Mt. Shasta Ski Park, we’re here to share our knowledge with a healthy heaping of stoke and the hope that winter continues to deliver to California.

Mt. Shasta December 2014 backcountry skiing

Mt. Shasta December 2014 backcountry skiing

After a week of some of the best early season powder skiing we’ve had in years we’re still glowing over our good fortune. The Mt. Shasta snow pack is in great shape with this being one of the 10 wettest Decembers on record. We currently have about 8′ of snow at treeline, a little more above, and a little less below. The road to Bunny Flat is plowed and sanded with about 4-5′ of snow at the trailhead.

Mt. Shasta December 2014 backcountry snowboarding

Mt. Shasta December 2014 backcountry snowboarding

Early Monday morning (12/22) the clouds finally lifted along with the temps to reveal a snow encrusted Mt. Shasta. The last storm cycle finished with rising temps and snow levels but still skied better than expected. We did observe rain runnels to about 8,200′ and natural avalanche starting from Sargents Ridge and depositing snow into the Old Ski Bowl. This likely occurred Sunday as the snow levels rose to almost 8,500′ and significant weight was added to the pack.

Avalanche in the Old Ski Bowl December 22, 2014

Avalanche in the Old Ski Bowl December 22, 2014

The current transitional state of the snow pack will greatly improve with the cooling temps and another round of precipitation coming with Santa on Christmas Eve. It may be our collective prayers, but it’s looking like the possibilty for a White Christmas will hopefully make all of our winter dreams come true. It’s still too early to be too optimistic, but we are excited to have a base and hopefully to be within the sites of the jetstream this year. So far, it’s been cooperating!

For climbers, we’re still leery of the upper elevations and being exposed to Mt. Shasta’s extensive avalanche paths. Winds are constantly shifting on the mountain and start zones are being loaded/deposited regularly. Use extreme caution above treeline and be aware of rapidly changing conditions.

We wish everyone a Merry Christmas and safe backcountry adventures this year!

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Upcoming:

Saturday January 24th. Mt. Shasta Ascension Randonee Race. A fun/competitive uphill ski race at the Mt. Shasta Ski Park. That evening trade your race suit for party gear and head out to the SnowBall! The annual party/fundraiser for the Mt. Shasta Avalanche Center.  A great weekend in Mt. Shasta

Spring conditions this week on Mt. Shasta

What a season…With fluctuations in the snow levels, we have been seeing rain up to 8,500′ dropping to 6,000′. By Monday morning temps had dropped and we had over a foot of new, cold snow above treeline. Add some steady winds from the north and we had avalanche concern for steeper south aspects on the upper mountain. The concern was confirmed when we skied up to a group who had triggered an avalanche that partially buried 4 of the 5 snow sliders in upper Anaconda Gulch on 3.10. Close call, heads up out there, we have had several storm systems with little time for the snow pack to adjust to the recent loads.

Climbing Casaval Ridge

Climbing Casaval Ridge

With careful route planning excellent snow conditions can be found.

Mt. Shasta backcountry conditions perfect!

Mt. Shasta backcountry conditions perfect!

Regular storms and light winds has delivered excellent ski conditions on the mountain. We are looking at several days of high pressure and warming temps, we may see 70 in town by this weekend. With that in mind we will likely see many Shastafarians enjoying the near perfect conditions, a welcome sight after a dry winter.

Snowboarding past avalanche debris in Avalanche Gulch

Snowboarding past avalanche debris in Avalanche Gulch

We’re stoked about the recent snow, we are still below average however. This may be a good year to be on Shasta earlier than later in the season. Unless of course, March and April return with wet weather and added snow. It’s never too late for winter conditions on the mountain.

We have our last AIARE Avalanche Course starting Friday. Upcoming guide training and summit season coming soon. Keep up the snow dance!

Skiing returns to Mt. Shasta

Did you here that? That was the collective sigh of relief as California received a healthy amount of precipitation ending a far too long dry spell plaguing our thirsty state for over 13 months. Mt. Shasta received between 2-3 feet of new snow from the last storm. This base building material is perfect, but the best part is the upcoming and long term weather forecast; sometimes you wanna kiss those forecasters over at the NWS in Medford.

…THE FIRE HOSE WILL BE SET TO FULL BLAST AND AIMED DIRECTLY AT NORTHERN CALIFORNIA FOR MUCH OF THE NEXT SEVEN DAYS…

Jenn Carr skis up Avalanche Gulch

Jenn Carr skis up Avalanche Gulch

Currently we have 2-3 feet of snow on the mountain. That means in most places rocks and stumps are still lurking just below the snow surface. Many happy locals were out enjoying the phenomenal conditions we had on Monday but caution needs to be exercised until we have a more substantial snow pack; which hopefully will be in a couple more days. The upcoming holiday weekend could hold potential for some serious storm skiing on Mt. Shasta and bring us right back to normal seasonal values this year. A very welcome relief for everyone.

Jenn Carr skis down Avalanche Gulch

Jenn Carr skis down Avalanche Gulch

While waiting for the snow totals to pile up this week, I took the opportunity to head just a few hours north to ski in the Three Sisters Wilderness area with friend and fellow guide Jonas Tarlen. Jonas owns and operates Three Sisters Backcountry; 2 hand crafted yurts and a wood fired sauna perched at the base of the TamMcArther Rim in Central Oregon.

Jonas Tarlan Three Sisters Wilderness

Jonas Tarlen Three Sisters Wilderness

Arriving after several feet of new snowfall and clearing bluebird skies, we scored beautiful ski and weather conditions although with significant avalanche hazard. This provided a great opportunity to use safe terrain choices while exploring the area and snowpack. We had a great day and Jonas was the perfect host as he gladly shared his skills and local knowledge. If you’re looking for a fun few days to unplug in the backcountry, a cozy yurt in the woods surrounded by hemlocks and ski shots is a great way to do it. Contact TSBC.

backcountry slope testing

backcountry slope testing

So nothing but snow and smiles here in Mt. Shasta and soon back to full operations. Contact us for any questions at all.

Mt. Shasta Winter Report

Snowcopalypse, Powmageddon, Blizzard of 2012, whatever you call it, we are buried deep in Mt. Shasta! We welcomed the end of the Mayan calendar and there are now some enlightened skiers in Northern California. From the Sierra to Cascades, the snow came in deep and fast. We like to think of it as the insta-snowpack. Starting in early December, a near record breaking storm delivered over 10 feet of snow to the upper mountain elevations. A perfect pattern to saturate the ground and provide a thick plaster layer that will adhere to the mountain through July. Then starting on December 20th, we received a series of storms bringing an additional 5-7 feet of snow. These systems had lower snow levels and blanketed the Mt. Shasta Ski Park and town with an impressive amount of precip for so early in the season. The storms continued right through the holidays and we had a very white Christmas indeed. Within a short time, we went from bare ground to full winter coverage and excellent conditions, is it too early to say Epic ?

Mt. Shasta Christmas Eve 2012

Mt. Shasta Christmas Eve 2012

This is great news for us outdoor recreationists. Not only has the skiing and snowboarding been off the hook deep powder for the last week, but this snow guarantees we will have an enjoyable climbing and ski season with snowpack values over 150% of normal at this time. Very, very cool!

We are in full winter operations at SMG (translation: skiing every day!). There are many great ways to get involved. The sport of backcountry skiing and boarding is booming and the Mt. Shasta area is ground zero for getting into the backcountry. For the complete first timer, check out our Introduction to Backcountry Skiing day tour, or the Ski Park’s Beyond the Boundaries, led by our Senior Guide Dane Brinkley. If you have some experience, our Serendipity Day Tour will get you to the goods and by now you know that you need an Avalanche Course, we are AIARE Course Providers and offer a super high quality Level I and II on and around Mt. Shasta.

Mt. Shasta Backcountry Skiing

Mt. Shasta Backcountry Skiing

The winter recreation on Mt. Shasta is unparalleled. The quiet and potentially raw beauty of a snow covered Mt. Shasta is beyond words, we invite you to experience it for yourself. With the winter elements, comes additional hazard we have to recognize and manage in order to have a successful outing. Check the Mt. Shasta Avalanche Forecast, call us, learn the skills properly, and always be vigilant when in the backcountry.

Coyote Butte Avalanche

Coyote Butte Avalanche

With all the recent snow, we did see some significant recent avalanche activity. This is the greatest indication of current hazard, so please choose your terrain carefully and make conservative decisions until things settle down. We are out daily, call for details.

Coyote Butte 6,600′ NE R4/D3 natural avalanche 12.23.12

The Everett Highway and Castle Lake Road are currently closed from the abundant snowfall. We will update as conditions change and County Road crews get things open again. In the meantime, we are being creative in our tours. This roadside attraction rarely has enough snow, but when it does, the turns are a unique treat. Powder skiing on Black Butte!

Black Butte Powder!

Black Butte Powder!