Forecaster Observation - Red Meadow, northern Whitefish Range

Location Name: 
Forecaster Observation - Red Meadow, northern Whitefish Range
Whitefish Range - Northern (north of Coal Creek)
Date and time of observation: 
Wed, 03/09/2016 - 12:00
Location Map: 

Red Flags: 

Observation made by: Forecaster
Snowpit Observations
More detailed information about the snowpack: 

Our objective for the day at Red Meadow was to assess any recent wind loading with the few inches of new snow since Sunday (3/6), look for buried surface hoar, and investigate how well the new snow is bonding to the rain crust from 3/6. 

We found no new wind slabs on Red Meadow Peak today. The 4-5 inchs of new snow is fairly low density (compared to our heavy wet snow that has fallen the past 2 weeks), and sits atop a pencil hard rain crust. On steep aspects this new snow sluffs easily on the rain crust and lacks cohesion. 

The big story during our travels today was finding well preserved buried surface hoar up to 1 cm in size. We dug three pits on a west, then east, then north aspect. This layer of surface hoar sits atop a crust from mid-February and is located about 1.5 - 2 feet from the surface. This layer fractured and propagated in our Extended Column Tests with moderate force (ECTP 14, ECTP 15, and ECTP 18). These are somewhat surprising results because this surface hoar layer is spotty and only reactive (to our knowledge) in the Whitefish Range. This does not mean it doesn't exist and is not reactive in the other ranges. Todd was able to get this layer to fracture and propagate in one of his stability tests on Skookoleel Peak last Saturday (3/5). Today, as mentioned, it fractured and propagated, in 3 stability tests on Red Meadow Peak. It's hard to know if this layer is pervasive and reactive throughout the northern Whitefish Range or if this is a relatively isolated location. This is what makes surface hoar so tricky to assess, and also emphasizes the importance of digging into the snow. You don't really know what's under the snow surface until you dig as each location can be very different. 

This layer is worth keeping an eye on and looking for while digging. It is located about 1.5 -2 feet below the surface, and likely sitting on top of a crust.

Snowpit or crown profile photo or graph: 
Snowpack photos: 
Snowpit videos (tests, etc): 

March 9, 2016 - Buried Surface Hoar, Red Meadow are, northern Whitefish Range

Weather Observations
Blowing Snow: 
Cloud Cover: 
100% of the sky covered by clouds
Air temperature: 
Below Freezing
Wind Speed: 
Calm (No air motion)
Air temperature trend: 
Wind Direction: 
Accumulation rate: 
Less than 1 in. per hour
More detailed information about the weather: 

Cloud ceiling lifted in the mid-afternoon as very light snowfall tapered by noon. Winds were calm with no snow transport observed.

Precip Rate: 
S -1; very light snowfall, trace to 0.5cm/hour