Avalanche danger is receding

SANDPOINT — Avalanche danger in the Panhandle appears to be slackening, according to the U.S. Forest Service’s Idaho Panhandle Avalanche Center.

The avalanche hazard rating for the Selkirk and Cabinet mountain ranges is low on all aspects and moderate near ridge tops and in areas of wind-loading or wind-affected snow on slopes greater than 35 degrees.

Avalanche danger had been rated as considerable with pockets of higher danger on wind-loaded aspects steeper than 35 degrees. Natural slides were considered possible, while human-triggered slides were considered likely

Forecasters ventured into the field in the Cabinets and Selkirks earlier this month and found a couple feet of moist, heavy snow sitting atop a drier, lighter layer of snow.

Moreover, there were rain and ice crust layers about a meter into the snowpack, which stoked concerns that a slide could step down onto them and produce a big release.

Avalanche forecasters evaluated the Trestle Peak area on Thursday and found mostly stable conditions due to moderate snow accumulations helping to settle old weak layers. Time has also helped stabilize the pack, forecasters said.

 Some wind was moving light surface snow at the ridge tops, so some slabs may have developed on lee aspects due to wind loading and denser surface slabs on windward aspects.

Compression tests in the Selkirks near Schweitzer Mountain revealed low-quality collapses in near-surface snow, forecasters said.

 Minor wind slabs were found near ridge tops.

The depth to the Dec. 4 ice crust weak layer was about 5 feet and was not reacting.

“Log this old weak layer in your memory since it will deteriorate over time and could become a weak layer again,” Kevin Davis said in a Dec. 28 avalanche advisory.

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