SMG/The Fifth Season Mt. Shasta Backcountry Ski Report 1.30.15

Like much of the West coast, Mt. Shasta has endured yet another mosty dry January. Above averge tempertures and abundant sunshine has at least provided ski conditions in the good to excellent range on Mt. Shasta. It’s hard to complain with mild temps and smooth sun softened corn snow, but this is the time for frozen fingers and raging wood stoves. With our wettest months coming up, we’re still confidant that we’ll see significant addition to our snowpack. Until then, we’ll be enjoying the beautiful spring like weather and winter sun.

January 2015 skiing Casaval Ridge Mt. Shasta

January 2015 skiing Casaval Ridge Mt. Shasta

Our last measurable precip was on January 16 with 6″ new snow on Mt. Shasta. This greatly improved the ski conditions and has created a smooth supportive base and good to great skiing on many south to east aspects.

Clouds lift to reveal 6" of new snow while ski touring in Avalanche Gulch Mt. Shasta January 2015

Clouds lift to reveal 6″ of new snow while ski touring in Avalanche Gulch Mt. Shasta January 2015

The alpine climbing has been quite good as well with firm cramponing and low avalanche hazard on the entire mountain. It is still early winter and although mild, above 11,000′ the snowpack is not going through melt freeze cycles, the ski quality generally diminshes at the upper elevations. We discovered this while climbing Shastina and were rewarded with a full value outing.

Skiing Shastina's mighty crater rim in Winter conditions

Skiing Shastina’s mighty crater rim in Winter conditions

Thursday (1/29)  USFS employees were out for their regular snow pack measurements, we’ll report back when we hear what the totals are. I estimate we’re not too far below average, certainly at the upper elevations we’re doing well, and I’ll go so far as to say we may have some of the best skiing currently in California, although that’s really not saying much.

It looks like we may see some new weather patterns early next week. Let’s keep the faith, there is still a lot of winter to go. There are early forecasts for an atmospheric river and general instability in the atmosphere to bring us back into the storm track.

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Upcoming Events

January 31st Truckee, CA Backcountry Basics

Feb 6-7 Avalanche Awareness and companion rescue Mt. Shasta

Feb 14-16 AIARE Level I Avalanche Seminar Mt. Shasta

SMG/The Fifth Season Backcountry Ski Report 1.1.15

Happy New Year! January 1, 2015 finds high pressure and cooler, breezy conditions on Mt. Shasta. The storms have cleared and left behind chilly temps (for California) and cold winds on the Mountain.

After a couple weeks of much needed powder skiing, we are back to a variable snow surface where backcountry riders will find a wide array of snow surfaces to slide on. The avalanche hazard is low and the snow is mostly smooth, but expect more challenging conditions in the backcounty due to the cold temps and wind. It’s possible will find soft snow in deposited areas or warmed from the sun on steep south east aspects; you’ll also find crusts, windboard, wind drifts, and even some ice in places. The coverage is good and touring generally enjoyable.

New Year's Eve on Grey Butte

New Year’s Eve on Grey Butte

We are enjoying the sunny winter days but would like to see the storm track swing back our way. The clear skies allow many options, it’s a good time to explore different objectives; seeking the experience with friends and family over the thrill of powder skiing and riding. We’ve checked some of the regular winter stashes, it’s still early and we’re hoping for more low elevation snow, but it’s no less fun to be out with friends on skis.

South peak in early season conditions

Middle peak in early season conditions

The cold, clear nights have been creating areas with significant surface hoar growth. We have not observed this on the Mt. Shasta (likely from the wind) but lower elevation, northerly aspects, and places near water sources (lakes, creeks, etc) will most certainly see surface hoar development. It will be interesting to keep track of this layer once we start to receive new snow. Buried surface hoar is the number 1 cause of skier triggred avalanches in the backcountry.

Surface hoar crystals are angular and have a feathery appearance

Surface hoar crystals are angular and have a feathery appearance

If you’re not familar with surface hoar and what to look for in the backcountry, we are hosting our first AIARE Level I Avalanche Senminar January 17-19 and have a few spaces available. Do your friends and partners a favor and be prepared for winter bc travel.

The Mt. Shasta Ski Park is open and the conditions are pretty good. This is a great ski hill for the whole family, with easy access to Grey Butte, a super fun backcountry option. The local Nordic Center is also open with about 20 km of groomed trails.

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Upcoming Events

January 2nd Free Avalanche Awareness

January 3rd Companion rescue and beacon training

January 10th Mt. Shasta Backcountry Film Festival

January 24th Ascension Backcountry Uphill Race

January 24th Snowball!

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

Mt. Shasta and SMG gear up for winter

Early season will test the hardiest of  snow enthusiasts while we anxiously watch the weather forecasts and wait for drought ending relief. California has been left behind the last couple years and it’s without a doubt that our time has come for some serious winter weather. It’s still too early to make any predictions but this year spirits are high with anticipation, and if the the current conditions are any indication, we are in for a doozy! Our proximity to the ocean, our latitide, and elevation make for an always changing landscape, it’s rarely dull and always inspiring.

Looking up Broadway, Green Butte Ridge

Looking up Broadway, Green Butte Ridge

The recent wet weather to effect California has been a relief to all who live and recreate here. Finally some much needed precipitation to fill our drained lakes and rivers and to bring snow back to starved skiers and riders. We’re not quite to full covereage yet, but it’s certainly improving and far better than the last couple seasons.

Mt. Shasta December 2014

Mt. Shasta December 2014

A brief break in the weather action allowed a chance to get out on the ridges and upper mountain. Above 8,000′ snow pack depths ranged between 120-140 cm (4-5′). Although still shallow, the pack is supportive from the high water content. Base building material we like to say. With a slight cooling, clearing skies, and light winds, this past weekend offered some stunning scenery and excellent ski conditions for the eager. Avalanche hazard was low but will surely change with the significant weather system to arrive Wednesday.

Green Butte Ridge

Green Butte Ridge

The Mt. Shasta Avalanche Center resumed operations to weekly advisories, always be prepared for rapidly changing conditions. We are about to receive anywhere from 6-10″ of precip as the next round of tropical depressions track towards Northern California. The high elevation of Mt. Shasta will turn this into 5-10 feet of snow. We hope the snow levels drop and brings the white stuff to our friends at the Mt. Shasta Ski Park, our family and many others look forward to returning strong this season!

We know it’s early, but we are extremely excited about the upcoming winter season. With the new snow, backcountry skiing and riding will continue to improve. Our AIARE Avalanche courses will have good conditions and this sets us up well for the 2015 climbing season. We have much to be grateful for.

Let us show you the goods

Let us show you the goods

 

We invite you to come ski tour with SMG.

Holiday Cheer to our friends and families.

Backcountry skiing Mt. Shasta

Miracle March has lived up to it’s snowy reputation. As of March 4th we have received 3-5′ of new snow on the mountain. This has come with fluctuating snow levels and steady wet weather patterns. Generally the snow level has been around 6,500′, taking brief hiatuses to 5,000′. Classic Cascade cement which will make for great spring climbing and skiing on Mt. Shasta.

Mt. Shasta March 4, 2014

Mt. Shasta March 4, 2014

We had a short break in the storms Tuesday with more wet weather headed our way Wednesday-Thursday. The break in the action allowed us to get up to 10,200′ to investigate the snow pack and natural avalanche cycle. The storms ended with a nice frosty finish and cooling temps which made excellent powder skiing and riding.

Jenn skis the big trees

Jenn skis the big trees

We observed a large avalanche that likely occurred Sunday 3/2 and started in upper Avalanche Gulch and deposited a large amount of debris into both climbers gully and avalanche gulch proper. What was most impressive was the linear distance the avalanche traveled across relatively flat terrain, indicating a significant amount of energy and force.

avalanche debris in Avalanche Gulch

avalanche debris in Avalanche Gulch

Smaller storm slabs were observed from Casaval Ridge that likely occurred Monday with much less size and distance, yet still something to give wide clearance to.

avalanche activity in Avalanche Gulch

avalanche activity in Avalanche Gulch

Observing several red flags (recent avalanche activity, blowing snow, rapid temp increases) we were traveling conservatively and made our transition and ski from just below Lake Helen. We enjoyed 3,500′ of near perfect powder, finally winter comes to Nor Cal!

Middle Moraines

Middle Moraines powder riding

The storm cycle and impressive avalanche activity reminded us that winter is far from over. Be aware of ever changing conditions on the mountain and be prudent in your terrain choices as wet weather continues.

We will have excellent conditions for the upcoming AIARE Level I Avalanche Seminar March 14-16. Contact us for more details. Be safe and have fun in the backcountry!

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 early winter report

It’s snowing on the mountain! We are at the start of a wet weather cycle here in Mt. Shasta and are hoping this will get us into a winter pattern of frequent storms and snow. There was little snow below 9,500′ prior to this, therefore it will take several feet before we are skinning or snow shoeing from Bunny Flat trailhead, possibly as early as next week. Always the optomists, we will be checking the trailhead daily.

Mt. Shasta sunrise

Mt. Shasta sunrise

We are waiting for the backcountry skiing to begin on Mt. Shasta and look forward to ski touring and winter conditions on the mountain. For the dedicated, there is always the possibility of fun and interesting tours on Mt. Shasta. Nick and I discovered nice snow both for climbing and sliding in Cascade Gulch recently. With the current new precipitation, glacier skiing and select gullies may have reasonable ski conditions although with significant approaches.

Cascade Gulch

Cascade Gulch

This view is what led Clarence King to “discover” that glaciers existed in the United States and to publish a scientific account of the glaciers of Mount Shasta based on his visit in September, 1870. Another interesting fact is that Mt. Shasta’s glaciers are currently in a period of growth on Mt. Shasta’s north and east sides.

Whitney Glacier

Whitney Glacier

There is lots to explore on Mt. Shasta as long as you’re flexible to enjoy whatever the current conditions allow. Hiking, trail running, mountain biking, and ski mountaineering are all possible while we wait for our winter snowpack to fill in.

Backcountry riding

Backcountry snowboarding

We’re watching the storm totals closely and will be out on skis as soon as possible. Get in touch if you have any questions and keep up the snow dance. At this point it’s too early to predict how this will effect the summer climbing season, we are hoping to at least come close to average snow depths. Check back for the latest conditions.

We are planning to run the upcoming AIARE Avalanche Level I Course February 15 to 17 and March 14-16. We will offer winter skills, ski tours, and summit expeditions as soon as conditions improve.

Winter’s coming to Mt. Shasta

It’s snowing on the mountain! Temps are falling, the wind is blowing, and some much anticipated flakes are falling from the sky. Sure, we’ll be measuring in inches and not in feet, however any precipitation is a welcome sight. And we can get a season’s worth of snow in one storm cycle so we’re keeping our eyes on the horizon. It’s not uncommon with this northerly flow that we see both low snow levels and accumulation. It’s also not uncommon that a cold, fierce north wind will follow up, so at least it will feel like winter and maybe some of that elusive Siskiyou County ice will appear.

Mt. Shasta in Winter

Mt. Shasta in Winter

We are super eager to see what the upcoming season will bring. While (im)patiently waiting for the start of the Shasta backcountry ski season, our guides are no less active in the fall and have literally been to the ends of the earth pursuing their dreams.

Rich Meyer’s passport has been getting some serious mileage lately. His latest adventure/trip that we’re super jealous about, took him to Antarctica as part of the Ice Axe Expedition’s ski cruise.

Antarctic Ski Cruise

Antarctic Ski Cruise

After crossing the Drake Passage the boatload (hah!) of skiers would disembark via Zodiacs to glacial landings which accessed untravelled terrain. All this under the careful watch of penguins, sea lions, and Antarctic landscapes. Rich was part of an elite guide team that explored and safely led folks on the trip of a lifetime. Wow! Awesome Rich!

Locals

Ski with penguins

Dave Miller has been covering some ground as well. Classic climbs of the Alps in September, guiding the Mexico volcano trilogy in October, and enjoying the abundant rock beauty of the desert southwest, Dave continually applies his trade with skill and passion. We’ll see Dave back leading SMG’s guide training, or perhaps for an Alps ski tour this year…

Dave Miller on the summit of the Grepon

Dave Miller on the summit of the Grepon

Andrew Dickie and Patrick Chu finished their last trip on Mt. Shasta and drove straight to the Bugaboos for some inspiring alpine climbing. In case you needed another objective on your tick list, there are some stunning routes to be done up north.

AD and PC high in BC

British Columbia alpine rock

Our entire staff has been hard not at work. From the Tetons to Tahoe, Bugaboos to Baja, all of us enjoying some personal time and new challenges. We are all looking forward to the upcoming Mt. Shasta season with new stories and adventures to share.

Coming this winter:

Rich will be back in Mt. Shasta January 18th for our first AIARE Avalanche Level I Course. This is mandatory for back country skiers and climbers. SMG is the only guide service offering an AIARE certified course on Mt. Shasta. We have 5 spaces remaining, you can register here: SMG AIARE Level I. We have dates in February and March as well with space available.

We will be scheduling custom trips on Mt. Shasta. Day ski tours, skills clinics, and winter summit climbs are just a few of the winter options found on Mt. Shasta. Please call or email for details. Winter trips are primarily custom based, we can accommodate most any request.

See you when the snow flies!