Snowpack Observations: How to use a probe to assess snowpack layers

Written by: Jere Burrell



Time to read min

Tracking layers with in the snowpack doesn’t require spending time digging a snow pit. Especially for deeper layers the extend beyond a hand shear. A probe can be used to track different layers through out the terrain. A probe offers more feedback than the ski pole pentrometer by giving better tactile & auditory feedback. 


In the Baker area we can easily identify the November 25th crust. And in this video I actually feel a “pop” through a crust that sits about 5cm above the Nov 25th crust (MFcr). That layer I haven’t seen while digging and offered new info with out digging! 


The why:
✅ Track pre identified layers through out the terrain

✅ Measure the depth and distribution of layers

✅ Listen and feel for density changes

✅ No shovel/ dig snowpack observations!

The why not:
🛑 Doesn’t provide an assessment of strength or weakness

🛑 Can’t asses if later/ interface is gaining strength 

🛑 New to you locations require a baseline snowpack observation first

⚠️ This info does not substitute professional training or an avalanche forecast. This technique is used to track the snowpack and NOT used for terrain selection or snow stability. Please refer to your local avalanche center for the most up to date info.