One big flash of lightning and a crash of thunder late last night, and we knew 1) heavy snow is almost certain to fall, and 2) it would be graupel
, or soft hail, the little pellets of snow that bounce against each other high in the clouds and create static electricity. And lightning.
Graupel is weird stuff: it's dense, it can grow to be pretty big. In a lot fo places, it can lurk in the snowpack and cause a weak layer that later can be the cause of slab avalanche releases. Luckily, with our maritime conditions of fairly constant temps, the pellet layer usually disappears fairly quickly. BUT it should always be a cause for thinking carefully about the day's course.
The other thing is that graupel in quantity is so dense that it can be really hard to move in. Get 60cm of this stuff on a slope, and you'll need steep conditions to even move forward (I can remember setting downhill trails on many occasions!).
And another thing I've learned: never plan the day based on the weather at 6 to 6:30 am. I'm usually out blowing snow, and the snowfall will slow, the wind will stop, a little blue sky will show—and then everything comes screaming back on. Weird.
New snowfall: 43cm
It's hard walking in this; my foot penetration test (how far one foot goes down after stepping in fresh) was 61cm, which means it's not real settled. And snow continues to fall at a rate of two cm or more per hour, with occasionally gusting wind. Maybe a good day for the slopes?