Z | Backcountry Conditions Update 12/1

Editor’s Note: Zahan Billimoria is proud dad as well as an accomplished mountaineer and guide for Exum Mountain Guides (see Zahan in action here, guiding for Teton Gravity Research). Zahan (“Z”) will be blogging for us this season with his adventures in parenthood and ski mountaineering with clients and on his free time. Welcome, Z!

In a winter crazed town like jackson everyone has their own pre-season rituals. For some its the snow dance: burn some skis, drink some beer and pray for snow. For others it involves lifting heavy objects, repeatedly – training as they call it. As a backcountry guide I tend to fixate less on the snow that is to come (though i can’t help but obsess about that too) and more on the snow that is on the ground. The snow that is on the ground is the foundation for our entire season’s snowpack, and though all snow is white -its not all built the same. Snow changes from the moment it lands on the ground, and certain atmospheric conditions promote snow strengthening, and others promote snow weakening. Snow science is part science and part voodoo magic – ultimately we are trying to make our snow observations as quantifiable and accurate as possible, which is no easy task for skiers.

The Extended Column Test is one of the most commonly used snow stability tests. In short, it involves isolating a block of snow and pounding on one side of it. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist, (or a snow scientist) to figure out that a block that stays in place reflects a better snowpack, that a block that comes falling out.

Here is a look at an ECT we performed last week
…But then maybe I should just go back to burning skis and drinking beer.