12 February, 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.


gulmarg avalanche

Snowpack Discussion
12 February 2017 – Avalanche danger above 3000 meters is Moderate (2) today. Natural avalanches unlikely, human triggered avalanches possible.  Winds in past days have formed very shallow Wind Slabs beneath ridge tops and in mid slope isolated terrain features on Northwest to Northeast aspects.  Extended Column Tests yesterday revealed bonding of unstable layers within the most recent storm snow with ECTN results.  At Treeline (~3000 meters) and Below Treeline, Avalanche danger is Low (1). Natural avalanches are unlikely, human triggered avalanches are unlikely. Normal caution is advised. Watch out for unstable snow on isolated terrain features especially on Southerly aspects (Sunny) during the warmest hours of the day.  Wet loose avalanches possible, small in size, and fairly unlikely.  I haven’t added Wet Loose to the avalanche problems below because we are still a couple of weeks away from it being a real problem. Read more about today’s avalanche problem below.

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 – 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.

Snow Observations from 10/11 February, 2017:

On a North aspect at 3960 meters (ALPINE >3000m) today, 3:45pm 10 February 2017, an Extended Column Test revealed a score of ECTN22 Q3 down 10cms, ECTN26 Q3 down 22cms, ECTN28 Q3 down 28 cms on a 38 degree slope. These are  layers from the most recent storm snow. ECTN scores are generally indicative of stability, however Wind Slab remains on the advisory for Northwest to Northeast aspects due to active wind loading this afternoon forming additional layers on top.  Height of snow: 170cms. Boot penetration: 40 cms. Sky: Clear. Active wind loading observed at ridgetops from the Southwest.  Avalanche danger above 3000 meters remains Moderate due to active wind loading.

The layers at 10 cms and 22 cms down within the most recent storm snow.
On Southerly (Solar) aspects below 3000 meters, wet loose avalanches are possible today on very steep terrain in the warmest hours of the day. Fresh roller balls–little snowballs–falling off trees and cliff bands indicate that the snowpack surface is getting weak. See the image below for a visual. Size will be small. Avalanche danger remains Low (1) at Treeline (3000m) and Below Treeline. Normal caution is advised for this problem. Watch out for unstable snow on isolated terrain features.
Travel on the rocks near cornices. Avoid travel on the snow near cornices.
Wind slab instability persists in the Gulmarg backcountry. Yesterday I went into Trajan Bowl for snow observations. In the advisory there is often the phrase, “mid-slope isolated terrain features”. What is that? This is a perfect example. See the image above. This is a North facing panel mid slope, and it is isolated from the rest of the terrain in the area. With a ski cut a small size 0.5 wind slab Avalanche propagated. This is why Wind Slab remains on the advisory as an Avalanche problem above 3000 meters (Alpine). Class 1 data of isolated instability in the Gulmarg backcountry on Northerly aspects below ridgelines and in mid-slope isolated terrain features. gulmarg-avalanche-advisory.com.

Gulmarg Ski Area (green zone) Timings for 12/2/2017:

Phase 1 – 8:15am – 4:30 pm (last cabin at 4:15pm)
Phase 2 – 8:45am – 4:00 pm (last cabin at 3:45pm)
Chair Lift – 8:45am – 4:00 pm (last chair at 3:45pm)

Beacon TrainingToday there are (1) beacons buried on Merry Shoulder today.  The beacon training area here in Gulmarg is located on Merry Shoulder. The orange dot (see photo below) indicates where a red flag is next to a large birch tree. This is the “point last seen”. Start your search here. We have one, two, and three beacons buried here daily.  Please do not dig up the beacons, simply cycle through your Primary (signal) search, Secondary (flux line) search, Pinpoint search, and then Probing. A probe strike indicates the end of your search. If you’re interested in learning more, please come by Gulmarg Ski Patrol base at the bottom of the chair lift.


Next avalanche talk is Tuesday, 14 February 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.