Hakuba Snow Report – 1st Feb 2011

Weather conditions: Cloud, partially sunny
New snowfall: 0cm (upper); 0cm (lower)
Snow depth: Hakuba Goryu Top : 335cm [official]
Just a bit of a post about the season so far in Hakuba…Well as you surely know from reading these reports it has been a great season so far with unusually low temperatures and heaping amounts of light powder. The snow pack in general has been stable in the Hakuba area due to continued snow fall with little fluctuation in air temperature and few days of strong solar radiation.

There are no real crusts to be found from the ground up as there has been no mid season rains or warm ups. There are a couple of weak layers to be found in the relatively consolidated snow pack that could still possibly be reactive if temperatures stay cold and northern aspects have been slower to stabilize due to the cold temperatures. The air temperature has been averaging -10°C at 2000 meters a.s.l and trending colder over night and early morning. These cold temperatures have been causing strong temperature gradients in shallow snowpack areas allowing for the formation of facets near the surface and especially around rocks at tree line or above. Winds have been generally calm during snowfalls but very strong during clearing prior and after snowfalls. This has meant great powder snow during times of snowfall but wind slabs and variable snow depths have been created in the Alpine.

This is the area that we still need to be very careful and use continued caution when traveling in these alpine bowls where wind effect has been observed. Steep rocky outcrops and large cornices are the areas to be extra cautious and avoid if possible.

And so, the season from here…

Let’s start with the short term forecast.

It looks as if the beginning of February is bringing us warmer weather from the west. There are no major warm ups in sight but we will not be having the January norm of sub 0 temperatures. We can expect a rapid settlement in the snowpack and continued bonding on all aspects, but do be cautious if temperatures climb above freezing and lower elevations on solar radiated slopes loose cohesiveness in the upper layers.

There is no rain in the forecast but if there is a chance of it Friday looks like a possibility with 2 quasi stationary fronts on the pacific and Japan sea with a low pressure between. The temps look as though it would be snow at elevation if there is precipitation at all. The ‘Fuyugata’, Northerly standing barometric pressure lines which bring cold Siberian winds has been the predominant pattern this year and looks as if that is still going to hold strong into February with the occasional warm front from the south west mixed in.

The good snow thus far is not over but we may be seeing more clearing and low cloud days in between the snow falls. Remember the good stability below tree line can change rapidly with rapid warming or any amount of rain on the snow pack.

Present Stability in Hakuba:

Considerable (Windslab, variable snow depths, faceting around rocks and exposed bushes and cornices are areas of concern.)

Tree line:
Moderate (Windslab, faceting around rocks and exposed bushes and cornices are areas of concern.)

Below tree line:
Low (Cornices and warming)