Snowpack Observations: Wind Slab Hand Shear

Written by: Jere Burrell



Time to read min

With fairly consistent temperatures earlier this week followed by light snow then wind with a cooling trend this weeks mostly stable conditions have areas of unstable wind slab and loose dry to remain aware of. 

As always read the daily avalanche forecast @nwacus

The Why: 
✅ Hand shears are quick and easy 

✅ A good snowpack observation for Wind or storm slab

✅ Perform many of them throughout the day 

✅ Target weak layers or areas you suspect unstable snow 

✅ Identify strong over weak layers

✅ No tools necessary, just a pole or your hand! 

Why not: 
🛑 Does not show likelihood of propagation 

🛑 Could have false stable results 

🛑 Not appropriate for deeper weak layers like a PWL

⚠️ Hand shears to identify weak layering in wind slabs is a valuable but limited observation. Combine this with small test slopes, active wind loading or recent avalanches to create a wholistic assessment of wind slab distribution and sensitivity. Keep in mid windslabs are often supportable meaning it’s difficult to trigger on tests slopes and may appear as a false stable observation.