Early slides don’t portend dangerous Wyo. winter
December 11, 2012
CHEYENNE, Wyo. – Big, new snow is already avalanching in the mountains around Jackson Hole, but that’s not necessarily setting a dangerous pattern for snow slides in that area this winter.
As of Monday, just short of 5 feet of powder had accumulated at the famous Rendezvous Bowl at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, which advertises the West’s best snow right now.
“We had a great booking weekend. People are hearing about the snow and making plans to get here,” resort spokeswoman Anna Cole said Tuesday.
Average snow depth for the bowl this time of year is 43 inches.
Heavy snow began falling around the beginning of this month and continued through Monday, when the mountains got another 10 inches. Down in the valley, Jackson got enough snow Monday to finally wear a frosty look befitting the holiday season.
Snow also has been piling up in the Wyoming Range and Yellowstone National Park which, weather permitting, is scheduled to open to snowmobiles this weekend.
Meanwhile, skiers have loosed dozens of mostly minor slides in the Teton Range.
Nobody has been hurt, although the Bridger-Teton Avalanche Center got a report of one skier getting caught in an avalanche south of Teton Pass on Sunday. The skier rode out the avalanche by deploying an emergency air bag collar, said avalanche center forecaster Bob Comey.
“It’s kind of good and bad. Most avalanches occur during and immediately after a storm. We’re getting that,” he said. “But a lot of times, persistent problems are associated with a shallow snowpack.”
The recent heavy snow has deeply buried layers set down weeks ago. The pattern of early accumulation could prove relatively resistant to avalanching in the months ahead, he explained.
“We’ve got short-term danger right now but we don’t have that long term, persistent weak layers. They’re getting covered up, and they’re getting covered so deep they might not be a problem moving forward.”
No small amount of the danger, of course, involves the risks skiers take.
“We’ve got the people that push the boundaries but they don’t really know it. Then we’ve got lots and lots of people who really are making good decisions and negotiating the avalanche terrain and conditions and paying attention,” Comey said.
All of Wyoming except the state’s northwest corner remains in a severe drought, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor.
The forecast calls for more wet weather where it’s needed least. The National Weather Service predicts at least a chance of snow in the Jackson area every day over the next week.