Avalanche Advisory published on April 3, 2017 @ 5:39 am
Issued by Graham Turnage - Taos Avalanche Center

1. Low


Above Treeline

1. Low


Near Treeline

1. Low


Below Treeline

The backcountry avalanche danger is rated LOW at all elevations today.  Watch for unstable snow on isolated terrain feartures.  Midday sun will raise the avalanche danger in the form of loose wet slides while the unlikely occurence of rain in the mountains today could cause a spike in wet avalanche activity.


  • Generally safe avalanche conditions. Watch for unstable snow on isolated terrain features.
Avalanche Problem 1: Loose Wet
  • Character ?
  • Aspect/Elevation ?
  • Likelihood ?
    Very Likely
  • Size ?
    Very Large

Wet loose slides are possible this afternoon if the clouds break down and we see direct sun in avalanche terrain.  Pay attention to surface melting on solar aspects as rollerballs and pinwheeling are clear signs that the snow surface is breaking down due to melting. Steep, rocky areas are the most suspect if we see periods of intense sun today. 

A note on RAIN: as a moist weather system approaches our mountains this afternoon there is an unlikely chance for rain showers before colder air impacts the area.  Rain on snow is concerning in this snowpack regime and should prompt backcountry travelers to quickly exit avalanche terrain.  Rain has the ability to cause rapid breakdown of the snowpack structure, quickly raising the potential for loose wet and wet slab avalanche activity.  Hopefully we will see this storm bring us only snow to the mountains and this will not be an issue.

advisory discussion

A few fresh inches of snow and generally light winds over the weekend has made for some good skiing and riding conditions and today's avalanche danger is rated LOW at all elevations.  Remember a LOW danger does not mean no danger so watch for unstable snow on isolated terrain features.  Isolated windslabs from the last few days seem to have bonded well to the underlying snow surface, but confirm this by digging pits and poking around these small slabs.

Today should be mostly cloudy by mid morning but if the sun pops out expect rising avalanche danger in the form of loose wet slides.  Pinwheeling and snowballing on solar aspects is evidence of surface melting and should prompt skiers and riders to find colder snow on shadier slopes.


The approaching weather system has the chance of starting as rain today, which would quickly raise the avalanche danger to MODERATE.  Rain is great at undermining the snowpack structure, increasing the chances of natural and human triggered loose wet and wet slab avalanches. If you experience rain while in avalanche terrain today, make a quick exit and wait for Tuesday's cold snow.  Let's hope this storm comes in as snow instead and we maintain a cold, stable snowpack.  

Be safe and have fun out there, and here's to another incoming snow storm!

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

recent observations

Sunday was a mash-up of weather in the mountains.  During our tour in the greater Williams Lake drainage we were psyched to see lots of folks gettin' after it - skiing and riding all over the place on a generally stable snowpack.  Strong periods of intense sun quickly changed the 2-3 inches of fresh snow on most slopes, although truely north facing slopes sheltered cold snow.  We observed a bit of rollerballing on S and SW aspects in the afternoon but found good skiing on "hot pow" at upper and mid elevations.  Stability tests indicated a well healed snowpack in general, as we were not able to initiate collapse or propagation.  Check out the VIDEO explaining our findings.  We did observe small, isolated wind slabs at the ridgetops, but these seem to be bonding well to the underlying surface.  The springtime cornices are large and looming overhead on a few isolated ridgelines, which we avoided (pic below).


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: 21.2 deg. F.
Max. temperature in the last 24 hours: 30.2 deg. F.
Average wind direction during the last 24 hours: W
Average wind speed during the last 24 hours: 14 mph
Maximum wind gust in the last 24 hours: 32 mph
New snowfall in the last 24 hours: 0 inches
Total snow depth: 95.1 inches

Today will usher in the last of a series of storms, which should persist through Tues night.  Clouds should build over the mountains by midday with highs in the 30s and moderate West winds.  Snow flurries may bring an inch or two by this evening, but snowfall is expected to turn on Tues morning with weather models calling for somewhere in the 8-12 inch range by Tuesday night, accompanied by cold temps (lows in the single digits).

Two-Day Mountain Weather Forecast Produced in partnership with the Albuquerque NWS
For 9000 ft. to 10000 ft.
  Monday Monday Night Tuesday
Weather: Partly cloudy. Slight chance of rain or snow showers in the afternoon. Snow likely. Snow.
Temperatures: high to 41 deg. F. low to 24 deg. F. high to 33 deg. F.
Wind direction: SW SW NW shifting to NE
Wind speed: 5-15 5-15 5-15
Expected snowfall: .04-.12 RAIN (maybe) in. 1-2.5 in. 3.5-8.1 in.
For 11000 ft. to 13000 ft.
  Monday Monday Night Tuesday
Weather: Partly cloudy. Slight chance of snow showers in the afternoon. Snow likely. Snow.
Temperatures: high to 31 deg. F. low to 18 deg. F. high to 23 deg. F.
Wind direction: W SW W shifting to N
Wind speed: 10-15 5-20 5-15
Expected snowfall: .2-1.6 in. 1.3-3.2 in. 6-10 in.

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.