Monday, January 25, 2016

"Steenburgh Winter" Is Almost Here!

It's egotistical and narcissistic, but a few years ago I coined the phrase "Steenburgh Winter" to describe that period in the central Wasatch from the first day Alta-Collins reaches a 100-inch base until February 10th.  Steenburgh Winter is meant to highlight the creme-de-la-creme of backcountry ski conditions, which occurs when there is both a deep snowpack and a low sun angle.

The 100-inch barrier is a good mark of when we have a robust mid-season snowpack.  There is of course good skiing at lesser amounts.  Yesterday, for example, offered up some fine backcountry skiing, but there are some areas in the Wasatch, especially in the rock-strewn Lone Peak Wilderness area, where deeper snow cover is a necessity.

February 10th was recommended to me by a good friend in the avalanche business as the day when one really starts to notice the impact of the sun on the Wasatch snowpack.  Prior to February 10th, one will occasionally find melt-freeze crusts produced by the sun on south aspects, but during cold stretches, those aspects can often offer up good skiing and other aspects rarely see sun crusts (on steep north facing slopes, there's really not direct sunlight prior to Feb 10).  As a result, there tends to be a wide range of aspects that offer up good powder skiing for long periods.  This was also true yesterday as the powder held up well even on south-facing aspects.  In mid-March, snow on those aspects would have been spongy and rollerbally by afternoon.

We haven't had Steenburgh Winter in a long time.  I fact, the last season we had 100" of snow on the ground at Alta-Collins by Feb 10th was 2010-11.  That season was exceptional as we hit 100" on December 20th, giving us nearly 2 full months of Steenburgh winter.

Today at Alta-Collins we are getting very close to the coveted 100" mark as the 24" that has fallen since late Saturday has put as at a 91" snow depth.

We're going to lose some ground to settlement this week as it looks dry through at least Thursday, after which we may see a return of stormy weather for the weekend.  Keep your fingers crossed!

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