Low snow conditions persist throughout NW Wyoming, but good powder skiing is still available at mid and upper elevations if you’re really willing to work for it. Today the dog and I worked for it, and I’m willing to share a few secrets in hopes of setting fewer skin tracks in the future.
Today Maestra and I borrowed MD’s spare and sledded up the Grey’s to Murphy Creek. We parked where Forest Road 10030 officially ends and set a skintrack up the mellow old logging road to the steeper slopes of Morningstar Peak.
Coverage was still plenty adequate to sled from Alpine to Murphy although the road is icy in spots and rutty/bumpy due to a lot of wheeled traffic. There is also a fair amount of debris in the road from people felling trees into the road for firewood and Christmas tree acquisitions. There are also a few small rocks in the road that have fallen from various cliffbands above, but these are easy to spot and avoid.
It was our first time climbing Morningstar, and there were no tracks to follow. We opted to ascend the ridge to looker’s left of the prominent Northeast Couloir and ended up descending the ridge to looker’s right of the same. It worked out well, but may not be the best route up the mountain, especially at higher avalanche risk levels.
Snowpack at 7000′ on the N side of Morningstar is ~12″ of scarily sugary crap under a ~4″ slab of denser snow capped with ~4″ of really fluffy snow and surface hoar. Snowpack near the 9400′ summit of Morningstar is ~18″ of scary sugar, ~6″ denser slab, and ~4″ of fluff on top. Obviously this varies with aspect: SSE aspects had a sun crust under the new fluff. NE ridges had lost depth to atypical winds that deposited snow on their S facing sides.
The skiing was good where coverage was adequate. I definitely hit a few rocks, but nothing serious or surprising.
What was surprising — and scary — was the development of depth hoar brought on by shallow snowpack + cold air + warm dirt + days on end. Today the dirt was so warm that mud clumps are still sticking to my poles. Today the top layer of fluffy snow was so cold that my feet froze up and the dog made her carry her a few times. Hopefully it warms up a bit and we get more snow soon.
Some spots are much shallower than others, here in Star Valley and regionally. For example, skiing options at JHMR are still extremely limited by shallow snow and closed lifts. Grand Targhee has much better coverage, but a lot more rocks are getting tilled up by the groomers there than a few days ago.
As expected, JHMR was a junkshow fiesta on $6 Friday: I skied Targhee with my visiting boat buddies, and they were stoked on the lack of crowds and decent conditions.
On Saturday RT, MD, and I sledded up the Little Grey’s to check out the snow conditions up there. It needs more for skiing.
The best bet up the Grey’s right now seems to be wide open, grassy, low angle, wind-protected, shady aspects above 7,000′. I might check out Lost Creek tomorrow before work, but it may be a good day to fart around the house instead.