Associated trip report: Five of us - one with snowboard, one with AT, and three with tele gear - started out from the ski area parking lot under lots of blue and some scattered clouds, maybe 4' of snowpack. We were a bit concerned about the east wind which had been whistling over the Cascades the previous day, although there was no evidence of significant wind at the parking lot. We decided to check out our choices at Herman Saddle, and there was a good uptrack from the parking lot, across the flats and up the main drainage toward the saddle, but we began to encounter areas of drifted-in uptrack and stiff wind-packed snow as we got higher. Herman Saddle itself looked pretty wind-affected (east wind), and the uptrack kept going up the S side of Mt. Herman, so we followed it. We stopped at about 5500' , had a snack in the sun, then started down. We found fairly deep loose snow, not exactly fluffy powder but nothing was sliding. Until, that is, we got over closer to some sunny cliffs, which had started to sluff snow and ice which were triggering some small chunky slides (we looked back later and saw some larger ones had covered many of our tracks). Still reasonable turning, until we got down near the valley floor where there were more wind-stiffened areas.
We had been seeing people descending various lines on the north slopes of Table Mountain, and only rare small loose sluffs being triggered on the steepest parts, so we crossed the flats and did a long climbing traverse to get to about 5000' on the shady slopes, where it was quite cold - 14 degrees F at 3:30. In a few places some moderate sized avalanches had come down previously and were covered by 4-6" of new snow; at least some of these were natural, starting from cliffs, and there was one clear fracture crown of maybe a foot. The rest of the snow was beautiful - cold, fluffy, loose, about 12" before any pole resistance, about 36" total above a 6" rain crust, and coverage was fully adequate. We climbed west to the last line which had tracks (directly under the east end of the Table Mountain plateau) and started down. It was as good as we expected it to be, face shots with enough speed and very stable, so we climbed back and did it again. It was great to be skiing in that kind of snow again after the long dry fall.
Our snowboarder had a difficult time ascending, with his snowshoes punching through the well-established uptrack in many places, but once descending on his board it was clear that his was the best gear for making turns, especially on the sunny run on the south side of Mt. Herman. Our return drive on I-5 was enlivened by almost ending up in one of those multi-car pile ups you read about in the newspaper; hard braking to a complete stop from 60 mph, tires squealing, cars drifting right and left trying to avoid hitting the similarly decelerating car just in front of them. Possibly due to lots of holiday shoppers merging? It was easily the scariest part of the whole trip, and our beacons wouldn't have done a bit of good even if we had still been wearing them.