It is not often when the boys at Cripple Creek get a full day off in the backcountry, but don't be surprised if you drive by the shop on Sunday and nobody is home. We are likely deep in the mountains for a full day of skiing and "training for training." December 1st was a huge day of skiing with 5 laps and over 6000 ft of skiing on an amazing type of snow.
This was not deep fluffy powder nor was it even the set-up soft stuff from previous days. It was one of the most impressive layers of hoar frost I have seen in a long time. This makes for incredibly fast skiing and awesome turns but it brings massive avalanche danger with the next storm. Colorado snowpack is notorious for being balanced on a precarious layer of champaign glasses. It only takes a few to break and the whole mountain comes tumbling down.
The champaign glass analogy was painfully accurate by the sounds of breaking trail or even scraping a pole through feathers that were at times well over an inch long. Some rudimentary pit testing showed a large cohesive layer from the last storm, but in wind effect areas two foot blocks were released with barely a tap.
Reports from other skiers show this layer of hoar exists across the Western Slopes. When the excitement from this next storm is coursing through your veins just remember that conditions are perfect for avalanches and be safe when earning your next turns.
Always check CAIC's reports before planning your next backcountry outing.