By Geoff Unger, IFMGA Mountain Guide
If you are like me you eagerly anticipate winter and the chance to get into the backcountry. So far, the 20-21 season has provided few opportunities for great snow and ample reason for patience. Even though there was technically enough snow to ski and ride the backcountry in December the guides were rock and ice climbing or fine-tuning movement skills on Mammoth Mountain until late in the month. By late December and early January there was enough snow to avoid many of the shallowly buried obstacles and cold clear nights preserved the soft snow surface. Few enough opportunities presented themselves and it was important to seize the moment. Each time my fellow Sierra Mountain Guides and I were there to capture the conditions. As the weather began to mimic spring we were still out there spending time with family and friends to play in the snow. During the period of Jan 10-17 we even skied some corn snow. Who would’ve thought we would have that in January?
As we near the end of January and the weather pattern is beginning to change, it is time to look ahead. The coming week will be telling. Look through the ski photos and when you get to the end you’ll see a graphic of the 5 day QPF. What is the QPF you ask? Well that is the Quantitative Precipitation Forecast. The screenshot you’ll see is for January 27th to 28th, 2021 showing Mammoth and the Sierra receiving 3 to 4 inches of water in that period. Don’t worry, that water equivalent is not coming to us in the form of rain. If we translate that to snow it means we are going to get 3 to 4 feet of snow!
We’ve all been eagerly anticipating the next round of powder skiing and riding and this week could rejuvenate our backcountry conditions. With that much snowfall in a short time we will see the snow quality go up, but the avalanche danger is likely to climb. For more information about the Snowpack and Avalanche Hazard get the bulletin from our friends at Eastern Sierra Avalanche Center. If you are unsure about the hazard or looking to explore some new terrain we recommend you hire a guide. Information on how to book can be found on the Sierra Mountain Guides website. Or you can contact us directly at: email@example.com Courses and trips fill up quickly so it’s never too early to book your guided adventure. Information on our spring touring programs can be found here: High Sierra Ski Tours
Have a great winter everyone and we hope to see you in the mountains soon! ~ Geoff