Winter Park is living up to its name this season, with a blessing of small and moderate snowfalls that have put down the essential layer for a good season of sliding on snow. Thus far, November has brought cooler, snow-sparing temperatures and long awaited moisture to elevations up and away from the valley floors. The hot dry summer and temperate fall will have left the ground warm underneath, establishing a weak layer that will undermine stability on steeper slopes. For now, there is little evidence of hollow sounding whoomphing that foretells of snowpack instability, but slides are evident on north facing wind-loaded aspects. While the snow-depth does not look entirely promising along the river corridor and valley floor, traveling up the side creeks and roads that parallel them into the forest will bring the cross-county tourer to what appear as full on winter conditions. The snowpack above tree line however, remains thin, and surprises still lurk beneath the white facade of a surface. Near the lower trailheads, regional skiers have been concentrated on the relatively few trails that are in good condition.
Without any significant new snow near valley level in over a week, be prepared to find potential luge runs. Variable conditions are developing off the beaten track, as the sun’s intensity sinters the surfaces of south-facing or even sun-exposed aspects. Above tree-line one might ride the surface, sink into some granular powder, or happen unhappily upon some breakable crust. Careful route selection is essential. More snow is expected for the weekend prior to Thanksgiving, and should freshen the trails up for the holiday.