THIS AVALANCHE ADVISORY EXPIRED ON April 3, 2017 @ 5:00 am
Avalanche Advisory published on April 2, 2017 @ 5:00 am
Issued by Andy Bond - Taos Avalanche Center

2. Moderate

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Above Treeline

2. Moderate

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Near Treeline

1. Low

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Below Treeline

MODERATE avalanche danger exists today near and above treeline due to wind slab avalanches. Human triggered wind slab avalanches are possible on slopes steeper than 35 degrees. LOW avalanche danger exists below treeline. Evaluate the snowpack and terrain carefully. Identify and avoid areas where wind slabs may exist. 

 

  • Heightened avalanche conditions on specific terrain features. Evaluate snow and terrain carefully; identify features of concern.
Avalanche Problem 1: Wind Slab
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  • Aspect/Elevation ?
  • Likelihood ?
    Certain
    Very Likely
    Likely
    Possible
    Unlikely
  • Size ?
    Historic
    Very Large
    Large
    Small

Moderate to strong NE winds during the storm have produced wind slabs near and above treeline.  These wind slabs for the most part are on top of a crust that formed Friday.  Snow totals have varied due to the winds but steep slopes with 6 to 8 inches of wind loaded snow should be approached with caution.  With NE winds we are seeing wind loading in atypical areas.  Pay attention obvious signs of wind slab instability like cracking, shooting cracks, or hollow drummy sounding slabs as these are indications that you've found a wind slab.  

Dig down into the snow identifying how well this new snow is bonding to the variety of old snow surfaces.  This is easy and will give you an indication of the stability of the slopes you plan to play on.

advisory discussion

Not a bad way to start off April, with storm totals ranging from 6 to 8" and around .5" of Snow Water Equivalent (SWE). After taking a break from the snow for the most part of yesterday, we received an additional 2" of snow overnight. This new snow overnight isn't enough to increase the avalanche danger but wind transported snow throughout the storm have formed wind slabs. Today human triggered wind slab avalanches are possible near and above treeline. Expect to find the deepest pockets of snow below ridgetops and cross loaded gullies.  NE winds during this storm have loaded slopes in a different manner than we're typically accustomed to with our predominant WSW flow. 

The instability today should be confined to the new wind loaded snow near and above treeline.  Dig down in the snow to see how well these wind slabs are bonding to the existing snow surface as most of these wind slabs formed on top of crusts from Friday.  Pay attention to obvious signs of wind slab instability like shooting cracks and collapsing. Avoid slopes that look fat or wind loaded.  Some slopes might have stiff slabs that if you hit the weak spot where it is thin, could break well above you.   

Although the main concern is wind slabs today, loose wet avalanches will not be out of the question with warming temperatures and the possibility of the sun popping out today.  These should be small and easy to avoid today.  Watch for rollerballs, pinwheels or point release sluffs as these are indications that the surface snow is starting to warm up. If the snow starts to get wet and sloppy head to a shadier aspects.  Steep slopes near rocks will be the most suspect.

 

We will issue the next advisory on Monday morning, and if you get out into the backcountry, please share any observations with us at taosavalanchecenter@gmail.com or on the "submit observations" tab at the top of the homepage - and Thank You!

Sorry gang, we don't have an avalanche beacon problem set up this week (yet) but will keep you posted as soon as we do.

recent observations

Graupel started this storm off around 4PM on Friday as the cold front passed.  Hard to know how much graupel was actually fell but it was coming down for a good hour as we were leaving.  Temps were warm (34° F) below treeline when the snow started falling.  Mid and high elevation temperatures were colder and below freezing.  It'll be interesting to see how much graupel fell before it turned to snowflakes.  We observed wet snow at lower elevations all the way to the ground.  

Saturday brought snow in the morning and midday sun that warmed slopes up to about 11,000'.  Winds during the storm stripped some slopes and loaded others.  Wind slabs were found near and above treeline but were not everywhere.  The wind slabs were forming on crusts that formed Friday before the storm and stability tests in the pits we were in, were indicating that this new snow was bonding pretty well as we were not able to initiate collapse or propagation in extended column or propagation saw tests.  Ski patrol at TSV did report triggering a small wind slab on a NW aspect above treeline on Saturday.

Pic; wind slab on a west aspect near treeline

Pic; West slopes wind loaded that typically don't hold much snow throughout they year, but with the last two storms bringing snow and NE winds these slopes have become wind loaded with new snow.

Pic; N aspects that were mostly stripped of snow during the storm.

CURRENT CONDITIONS Weather observations from the Wheeler Peak Wilderness between 9000 ft. and 13000 ft.
0600 temperature: 20.3 deg. F.
Max. temperature in the last 24 hours: 26.7 deg. F.
Average wind direction during the last 24 hours: E
Average wind speed during the last 24 hours: 12 mph
Maximum wind gust in the last 24 hours: 42 mph
New snowfall in the last 24 hours: 2-3 inches
Total snow depth: 97 inches
weather

Quiet but cool weather is in store today as yesterday`s storm system continues to shift away from the state. However, another storm system is on tap to impact northern New Mexico Monday afternoon through Tuesday. Winds will back off today (5-10 MPH) with a northwest flow.  Temperatures will warm above freezing today with a high of 43° at 9000'.  

Two-Day Mountain Weather Forecast Produced in partnership with the Albuquerque NWS
For 9000 ft. to 10000 ft.
  Sunday Sunday Night Monday
Weather: Partly cloudy. Slight chance of rain showers in the afternoon. Partly Cloudy Partly cloudy. Chance of rain showers and snow showers in the afternoon.
Temperatures: high to 43 deg. F. low to 26 deg. F. high to 47 deg. F.
Wind direction: NW NW SW
Wind speed: 5-10 5-15 5-15
Expected snowfall: 0 in. 0 in. 0.04-0.1 RAIN in.
For 11000 ft. to 13000 ft.
  Sunday Sunday Night Monday
Weather: Partly cloudy. Slight chance of snow showers in the afternoon. Partly Cloudy Partly cloudy. Chance of snow showers in the afternoon.
Temperatures: high to 33 deg. F. low to 25 deg. F. high to 36 deg. F.
Wind direction: NW NW SW
Wind speed: 5-10 5-15 5-15
Expected snowfall: 0.1-0.2 in. 0 in. 0.2-1.1 in.
Disclaimer

This advisory applies only to backcountry areas outside established ski area boundaries, Click here for a map of the area. . This advisory describes general avalanche conditions and local variations always occur. This advisory expires 24 hours after the posted time unless otherwise noted. The information in this advisory is provided by the Taos Avalanche Center who is solely responsible for its content.