Sunny skies, warm temperatures, and AVALANCHES! | Mountain Sledder
March 24th, 2009

Sunny skies, warm temperatures, and AVALANCHES!

Over the past few days, I have seen debris from some of the largest slides I’ve yet to see.  One of our local zones here in Golden called Gorman Lake was full of recent activity.  The entire south ridge of the lake let go and was one of the most powerful displays of mother nature in all her fury.  I’d have to say it was humbling just riding past the debris on the way out at days end.  
Solar radiation can penetrate deep into the snow pack and with above zero temperatures, it doesn’t take long to turn the snow pack back into a water like form.  With the increased temperature the crystals no long have strength and loose their cohesion with one another turning what’s called in the industry “isothermic.”  Once this happens it takes little to no human trigger to release even mellow slopes.  With so much water in the snow pack, it is very heavy and gravity only wants it to travel in one direction… DOWN!  
South facing slops (yeah those are the sunny onces) are the most prone to this sequence of events.  With no shade to protect it, the snowpack heats up quick and becomes volatile.  
Ask yourself a few questions the next time you are spring riding.  
How warm is it today?
How long has the sun been shinning on that slope?
Have I seen this slope cycle before?
If it looks too good to be true, it probably is!
Make sure you are riding with skilled and knowledgeable riders.  This is not the time of year to throw caution to the wind.  Be careful, ride safe, enjoy the sun, and avoid south features, especially in the afternoon.  Besides, the snow is colder and dryer on the North aspects anyway.  Save the sunny safe spots for lunch time and sun tanning!