The more things change, the more they stay the same as the saying goes. We’ve had a little warmth, a little wind, a little snow, but no big weather events to cause significant changes to the snowpack. That’s the way it seemed anyway until a big blow came in Monday and reminded us how harsh a winter wind can feel, and that even if the mercury hasn’t shrunken, the chill can be to the bone.
The howling maelstrom created variable conditions, from hard-packed drifts and wind-tempered trail-beds to the occasional soft slab and even dustings of powder where the air currents relinquished their ferocity. What hasn’t changed however, is the granular snowpack that collapses with ease and confines skinny ski travel to follow previously trafficked paths. Some of these trackways are now filled with a durable, supportive wind-blasted filling that is a stark contrast to the bottomless quagmire beside it. The rabbits are using these passages like highways, due to the vastly greater efficiency, which will enhance their survival until the coyotes and foxes catch on.
The holidays are for the better part over, or taking a breather until the Martin Luther King extended weekend. Trail users should be fewer in numbers, especially on weekdays, and even with the wind we’ve not had any significant trail burials requiring heavy duty trail breaking for some time. Until this week, regular freshening snow showers had kept the surface snow powdery soft and for the most part fresh, though Grand Park was hit pretty heavily by some wind that scoured and hardened the surface even before this recent assault. Travel on the trails, thus currently allows for some fairly lengthy forays. Getting good kick and glide has not been difficult, especially as the days have thus far, remained cooler than in recent years.
After this early week wind and a couple of warm days, the snowpack is beginning to feel a little worn and tired, requiring a softer wax to gain the grip needed for a strong kick. Colder nights have begun to form the beginnings of hoar frost in low-lying creek beds, but the larger crystals we might see with more dramatic temperature swings have not materialized. More moisture in the air and a supercooled surface is needed for those little H2O molecules to cling to one another to form their more expansive dazzling crystalline structures.
Single digit temperatures in the mornings have been common with only a meager few drops of the thermometer well below the 0 degree mark. Any local who has been here longer than 20 years will be able to regale you with stories in which reports of 30 and 50 below were not uncommon, especially in Tabernash, where on still nights the heavy, cold air sinks to the valley floor and is trapped by Red Dirt hill and the curves of the Fraser canyon.
The end of the week may bring some more moisture, though predictions are not calling for any great amounts. As is often the case however, 1-2 inches on the valley floor can be 4-5 with a little elevation and distance from the urban influence. Cloud seeding can also juice the totals towards the upper end of the Fraser valley.
That’s the word from the trail as we head into the second week of January.