Isolated Whumping

Titus Ridge, south of Galena Summit, saw over two feet of snow in some sections due to strong wind gusts over the weekend.

After a large storm system deposited more than a foot of new snow in the Sawtooth, Smoky and Boulder Mountains this past weekend, the Sawtooth Avalanche Center is advising backcountry skiers and snowboarders of increased avalanche risk.

“For most of us, it has been many months since we had our avalanche brains activated. However, it does not matter if your skills are a bit rusty—the dangers posed by avalanches are as real today as any other,” the center stated Saturday.

At 5 a.m. on Sunday, the Natural Resources Conservation Service’s SNOTEL sites recorded 20 inches of new snow at Banner and Galena Summits and 19 inches at Dollarhide Summit from Friday’s storm system.

Two public field reports received by the Sawtooth Avalanche Center over the weekend noted strong gusts and unstable slabs near ridgelines and mid-slope gullies in the Galena Summit region. On Saturday, skiers noticed isolated cracking and whumping—or the sound of collapsing snowpack—on Titus Ridge, west of Titus Lake. A report submitted Sunday noted a snow depth of nearly 2.5 feet on the same ridge and soft slab releases.

“Be careful out there,” the report stated.

Early-season backcountry skiers and riders should watch out for unstable slabs on slopes holding older snow and smooth, grassy slopes, the Avalanche Center stated.

“Snow that fell earlier this fall can be found on many shaded, middle and upper elevation slopes. This snow is helping to create a smooth bed surface for avalanches to slide on. In addition, this week's weather may have produced some weak surfaces that the new snow will have trouble bonding to,” the center stated Saturday. “Thanks to the rapid load and strong winds expected today, even slopes that were free of snow prior to last week can produce avalanches.”

The next big snowstorm is expected to arrive in Idaho by Wednesday and continue dropping snow through Thursday, according to Idaho Daily Snow forecaster Steve Stuebner. For updated snow forecasts, visit https://opensnow.com/dailysnow/idaho; for avalanche forecasts, visit https://www.sawtoothavalanche.com.

Email the writer: ejones@mtexpress.com

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