Toured out to the top of the Crystal drainage via the Lookout Trail/Ridge. After yesterday's excellent powder fiesta that ended with a rime/crust event I was skeptical on what we would find starting at a lower elevation trailhead. Weirdly enough we did not come across the said new crust layer until about 6000' on the ridge line where it was present for the remainder of the climb to our high point. Like the day before the wind gusts were noticeable above 6500 feet but were only minorly affected below that elevation. When choosing our ski descent we backed off the larger starting zone at 6600' and chose a slightly lower, north-facing aspect that started at roughly 33 degrees. This slope did not have the same degree of wind pillows up top, but after skiing through the upper 200' of glades I triggered an avalanche on a roughtly a 38 degree cross-loaded slope. The avalanche broke at my feet as I was making a fast turn to get out of some trees and onto the open slope below. I recognized the avalanche quickly since I experienced similar touchy conditions yesterday. However, this was much more of a slab (yesterday it was much softer and only sluffed some) due to the cross-loaded nature of the terrain. The avalanche broke 30' each side of me and was about a foot deep. I was able to use my momentum to ski out and away from the avalanche getting ahead of it quickly. Fortunately the slope benched out after 300' where the soft debris pile came to a stop. I radioed up to my partners what had happened and had them ski the soft debris pile. Another rider broke loose a bit more of the slope, but it was very small (about 20 feet wide, the remaining hang-fire).
Needless to say we ended the tour on this run and schralped the skinner back to road. With the approaching storm these wind slabs are worth noting as they will be getting buried in potentially unexpected zones. This area does not stand out as being a dangerous zone, as it initially looks like a nice gladed slope with plenty of trees and broken-up pitches. Goes to show what some strong gusts can do when blowing across more fluted terrain. Check out the photo and you may see what I mean; the crown is barely visible amongst the trees near the top of the slope.
Of note- the snow got quite heavy and thick by the end of the day as the temperatures were on the warm side down low!
Expected sluffing based on prior day’s conditions on similar aspects in nearby drainage. Surprised by slab.
Suspect it failed in new snow or density changes in recent snow. Variable crown depths suggest cross-loading. Slope occurred about the reported upper elevation of the 12/22 crust, though did not examine the crown.
Radios helped rest of party avoid triggering adjacent slopes.
Forecast Hotline: 406.257.8402
Call or text an observation: 406.66AVYOB