31 January, 2017

What does the scale above mean to you as a skier or snowboarder in the Gulmarg backcountry? Remember, this advisory is for the Gulmarg backcountry, which means the terrain that is outside of Gulmarg Ski Area. The red areas in the photo below are the Gulmarg backcountry, and the green area is Gulmarg Ski Area. This advisory does not apply to the green zone ski area. Read more here.

For ski area updates during the day please join Gulmarg Avalanche Conditions page on Facebook: http://bit.ly/2jowwOM.

Please read the signs posted at the top of the chair lift and second phase. Ski tracks leaving the ski area do not indicate that it is safe to go there.


gulmarg avalanche

Snowpack Discussion

31 January 2017 – Avalanche danger above 3000 meters is Considerable (3) today. Natural avalanches possible, human triggered avalanches likely.

From the top station of the chair lift we observed the natural release of a size D0.5 wind slab at 2:40 pm on an East aspect in South Apharwat bowl at 3200 meters. This is one of the reasons for the continued Considerable (3) avalanche danger rating for the Alpine (above 3000 meters). Natural avalanches possible, human triggered avalanches likely. Look closer, you can see the slide in the middle of this old slide from during the large storm last week.

At Treeline (3000m) and below, the avalanche danger is Moderate (2). Natural avalanches unlikely, human triggered avalanches possible.  The #1 avalanche problem for today is Storm Slab above 3000 meters.  See the avalanche problems section below to read more about this avalanche problem. The #2 avalanche problem for today is Wind Slab avalanches. Wind Slab avalanches can be expected above 3000 meters on all aspects with the most likely locations being Northerly aspects.  Control work yesterday in the ski area revealed widespread small wind slabs that were reactive to a ski cut. These slabs formed overnight and were 15-40 cms in thickness, failing on a wind crust that formed the day prior.  The new snow old snow interface from last weeks 220 cm storm is still showing a poor bond as well, although the shear quality at this interface is not planar and appears to be beginning to bond. Hence, Storm Slabs (it could be called a Persistent Slab at this point) remain on the avalanche problems list for today.  Today is a good day to ski in the ski area and wait for the snowpack to heal and bond further. There are several unstable layers in the top 100 cms of the snowpack that could produce small to medium sized avalanches on all aspects in the Alpine (above 3000 meters) from a skier or snowboarder trigger today.

http://www.deepsnowsafety.org/index.php/. We now have enough snow in the conifer forests for skiers and riders to get trapped in tree wells. Read more about this phenomenon in the link above. It causes several fatalities each year in other ski regions of the globe.


See daily snow observations, snow pits, and data from Luke Smithwick and the Gulmarg Ski Patrol. Sign up for a free Avanet account.
See daily snow observations, snow pits, and data from Luke Smithwick and the Gulmarg Ski Patrol. Sign up for a free Avanet account.

Avalanche Problem #1 – Storm Slab

gulmarg avalanche

Release of a soft cohesive layer (a slab) of new snow that breaks within the storm snow or on the old snow surface. Storm-slab problems typically last between a few hours and few days. Storm-slabs that form over a persistent weak layer (surface hoar, depth hoar, or near-surface facets) may be termed Persistent Slabs or may develop into Persistent Slabs.

You can reduce your risk from Storm Slabs by waiting a day or two after a storm before venturing into steep terrain. Storm slabs are most dangerous on slopes with terrain traps, such as timber, gullies, over cliffs, or terrain features that make it difficult for a rider to escape off the side.

Avalanche Problem #2 – Wind Slab

Release of a cohesive layer of snow (a slab) formed by the wind. Wind typically transports snow from the upwind sides of terrain features and deposits snow on the downwind side. Wind slabs are often smooth and rounded and sometimes sound hollow, and can range from soft to hard. Wind slabs that form over a persistent weak layer (surface hoar, depth hoar, or near-surface facets) may be termed Persistent Slabs or may develop into Persistent Slabs.

Wind Slabs form in specific areas, and are confined to lee and cross-loaded terrain features. They can be avoided by sticking to sheltered or wind-scoured areas.

The current wind slab problem on Northerly aspects at ridgetops and in mid slope isolated terrain features. This particular image is from a compression test that failed on isolation (CTVE down 25cms on a NE aspect at 3200 meters, Sudden Planar). The failure plane is a wind crust from two days prior. We are currently in a cycle of windy days and nights with small pulses of precip. producing daily fresh wind slabs.
An Extended Column Test yesterday at 3200 meters on a NE aspect. Slope angle: 45 degrees. ECTPV (Fracture propagates across the entire column on isolation). Sudden Planar down 45 cms. Failure plane was broken stellars and stellars from the snowfall two days ago with wind loading building a slab on top of this weak low density snow. These slabs are widespread and deserve your attention. It should also be noted that there is a layer ~105 cms down that also fails upon isolation of the column yet is not a clean shear at least with two tests in this exact location. Keep spatial variability in mind and manage your terrain wisely.

Weather Forecast (link:http://www.snow-forecast.com/resorts/Gulmarg/6day/mid)


Gulmarg Ski Area (green zone) Timings for 31/1/2017:
Phase 1 – 8:30  am – 4:30 pm
Phase 2 – Opening after avalanche control work. The kicker here is the wind, which has not allowed the second phase to operate for the past two days running. Let’s hope the winds slow at G4 station and allow operations. Updates on Gulmarg Avalanche Conditions facebook page. http://bit.ly/2jowwOM.
Chair Lift – Opening after avalanche control work.

*We will board the second phase of the gondola at 0900 and go up to remove avalanche hazard  for the second phase and open it. We will open what the weather allows.


Next avalanche talk is Tuesday, 31 January, 2017 at 7:30pm at Pine Palace Resort. Pine Palace Resort is located in Gulmarg meadow. Talks will continue every Tuesday night at 7:30 pm through 28 March, 2017.