Avalanche Advisory published on April 5, 2017 @ 5:48 am
Issued by Andy Bond - Taos Avalanche Center

2. Moderate


Above Treeline

2. Moderate


Near Treeline

2. Moderate


Below Treeline

MODERATE avalanche danger exists at all elevations today due to storm slab avalanches.  Human triggered storm slab avalanches remain possible.  Natural avalanches are unlikely but not impossible today as we could see loose dry snow avalanches in steep terrain. Evaluate snow and terrain carefully and make a plan to avoid areas of concern.



  • Heightened avalanche conditions on specific terrain features. Evaluate snow and terrain carefully; identify features of concern.
Avalanche Problem 1: Storm Slab
  • Character ?
  • Aspect/Elevation ?
  • Likelihood ?
    Very Likely
  • Size ?
    Very Large

10 to 15" of snow has fallen in the mountains in the last two days. Human triggered storm slab avalanches will be possible today at all elevations and aspects.  These storm slabs have fallen on a variety of crusts from before this storm.  Winds picked up out of the NE on Tuesday during the midday hours and were starting to build a more cohesive soft slab at ridgetops.  Winds calmed down and it continued to snow throughout the day and evening.  Expect to see density changes within the new snow due to the midday winds yesterday which might not be easy to identify as several inches of low density snow is now on top. Although storm slabs are our major concern for today, these storm slab avalanches could be potentially large enough to bury or injury you.

Dig down into the new snow to identify how well this new snow is bonding to old snow surface as well as identify whether there is a density change with in the new snow as there may be a soft slab that formed with low density snow now on top. 

Winds picked up during the midday hours on Tuesday before dropping off again!


advisory discussion

April has been kind to us so far with 10 to 15 inches of snow falling in our mountains in the last two days, with 5" of low density snow falling overnight. Today's avalanche danger is rated MODERATE at all elevations as human triggered storm slab avalanches are possible.  Forecasted strong winds only picked up for about 4 hours during the mid morning hours on Tuesday out of the NE, which were transporting the low density snow into soft slabs at ridgetops.  Continued snow throughout the day and evening are now covering up this slab. The low density snow will be tempting to all of us as today will be a blue bird powder day!  Don't let powder fever get your guard down. 

Winds are forecasted to remain light today out of the west, but if winds do pick up, there is a lot of snow available for transport to form soft slabs.  Watch for shooting cracks and fresh avalanches as these are bulls eye clues that the snowpack is unstable.  Dig down into the new snow to identify how well the new snow is bonding to the old existing snow surface.  Expect to find density changes within the new snow as these soft slabs were starting to propagate and run from our ski tips yesterday and are now covered by 5 to 8 inches of low density snow. 

Today's cold temperatures should keep most of the loose wet snow avalanches at bay for today, but expect to see loose dry snow "sluff" avalanches in steep terrain especially below rock bands as strong spring sun pops out today.  Although these loose avalanches should be small, even a small avalanche in high consequence terrain can spell disaster.  Be aware of terrain traps like steep gullies or cliffs.  We've had an amazing season so far, and these storm slab instabilities should heal quickly in the next couple of days. With high pressure in our forecast there will be plenty of days to get on bigger, steeper lines, but today is not the day to push it.  

Be safe out there and enjoy this dose of winter weather - and please send us your observations!

We will issue the next advisory on Thursday 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

Tuesday was snowy and windy during the midday hours.  Graham was out on Tuesday when winds were forming soft wind slabs at ridgetops (See Photos below).  Cold temperatures throughout the storm have made for low density snow which easily transported by the 20 to 30 MPH winds out of the NE during that 4 hour period.  Winds died down in the afternoon and evening as snow continued to fall. During this slab formation Graham was able to start to produce small soft slab avalanches starting from his ski tips.

Pic; wind transported snow forming slabs 


Pic; wind slab forming at the ridgetops (this wind slab is now covered by low density snow that fell on top)

Monday brought more wild spring weather and the mountains saw a few fierce snow squals which dropped a couple of inches of graupel as this wet weather system approached.  Intense graupel loading was observed at the base of cliffs and Andy found a few small, isolated windslabs in the higher elevations as pictured below.  Warm temps and sun from Sunday had effected all but truely north facing slopes, making for interesting skiing conditions.

pic; graupel pooling at the base of cliffs creating cones on Monday

pic; small windslab that we skier triggered on a N aspect above treeline on Monday.

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.


CURRENT CONDITIONS Weather observations from the Wheeler Peak Wilderness between 9000 ft. and 13000 ft.
0600 temperature: 9 deg. F.
Max. temperature in the last 24 hours: 22.7 deg. F.
Average wind direction during the last 24 hours: WSW
Average wind speed during the last 24 hours: 10 mph
Maximum wind gust in the last 24 hours: 52 mph
New snowfall in the last 24 hours: 8-10 inches
Total snow depth: 103.3 inches

Quieter weather is on tap for today as the storm makes its exit to the east.  Mostly sunny weather today with temperatures remaining cool (Hi 39° @ 9000').  The bigger story is what will the winds do as we have a lot of low density snow available for transport.  Winds today are forecasted to be 5-15 MPH out of the west.  Expect a steady rise in temperatures through Friday before a return of the wind for the weekend.




Two-Day Mountain Weather Forecast Produced in partnership with the Albuquerque NWS
For 9000 ft. to 10000 ft.
  Wednesday Wednesday Night Thursday
Weather: Mostly Sunny Mostly Clear Mostly sunny in the morning then becoming partly cloudy.
Temperatures: high to 39 deg. F. low to 20 deg. F. high to 49 deg. F.
Wind direction: W NW W
Wind speed: 5-10 5-15 5-10
Expected snowfall: 0 in. 0 in. 0 in.
For 11000 ft. to 13000 ft.
  Wednesday Wednesday Night Thursday
Weather: Mostly Sunny Mostly Clear Mostly Sunny in the morning then becoming partly cloudy
Temperatures: high to 30 deg. F. low to 21 deg. F. high to 37 deg. F.
Wind direction: W W W
Wind speed: 5-15 5-15 5-10
Expected snowfall: 0 in. 0 in. 0 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.