So far the Steamboat and Flat Tops zone looks to have a better snowpack than adjacent zones. At this point in time we have limited data and it is very early in the season so the jury is still out. A skeptical view of the snowpack is always a good idea when the snowpack is in its infancy. What we have found so far is that a faceted layer of snow near the ground is much stronger than expected. In some places, such as around Buffalo Pass, it has been hard to find the existence of this layer at all. Nevertheless, we do have weak layers in the snowpack and they will command our attention. This will be the case until we get enough snow to build a strong and deep snowpack and see these weak layers strengthen further.
Initial indications are that our layer of concern should be a faceted layer that is buried beneath the storm snow of the last 5 or so days. On Tuesday, on Rabbit Ears Pass, stability tests showed us that this weak layer can propagate a fracture. In most areas there is not a thick enough slab on top of this weak layer to be a problem but it is something to keep an eye on for the future.
For the time being you should evaluate steep slopes for the presence of weak, faceted layers beneath slabs. More importantly, heed any warning signs of an unstable snowpack such as shooting cracks and sounds of the snowpack collapsing. If you are getting out and about, please send us your observations. Your observations are much appreciated and will help us to paint a more accurate picture of the early-season snowpack in the zone.