THIS AVALANCHE ADVISORY EXPIRED ON April 7, 2017 @ 5:49 am
Avalanche Advisory published on April 6, 2017 @ 5:49 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 in near and above treeline today with LOW danger in below treeline areas.  Human triggered wind slab avalanches and loose wet avalanches will be possible today.  Evaluate snow and terrain carefully and make a plan to avoid areas where these avalanche problems 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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 Moderate ridgetops winds out of the WSW have transported the low density snow that fell on Tuesday creating soft cornices and wind pillows below ridgetops.  Be aware that these cornices are breaking back further than you might expect.  Wind slabs at higher elevations could be 1 to 3 feet in spots and are resting on a crust from the warm sunny weather we had before this storm.  Weak layers also exist within the storm snow.  Sun and warm temperatures will start to heal these wind slabs, but we are not there yet.  Avoid steep slopes where you find wind drifted snow.

Cornice and wind drifted pillows forming on a east aspect on Wednesday

Avalanche Problem 2: Loose Wet
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The strong spring sun and warm temperatures today should quickly eat up the sun/melt-freeze crust that formed Wednesday.  Look out for rollerballs and pinwheels and wet unsupportable snow as these are indications that surface snow is warming and becoming unstable.  The new snow from Tuesday fell on a crust that is providing a great bed surface to run on. Loose wet avalanches tend to start on steep slopes near rocks as a point release before fanning out.

Loose wet avalanche from on a SE aspect on Wednesday around 1 PM

advisory discussion

Tuesday's storm dropped 10 to 15 inches of snow in our mountains accompanied with moderate to strong winds.  Wednesday brought sunny weather that is helping to stabilize the storm snow.  Ridgetop winds out of the WSW were transporting the low density snow that was available for transport and forming soft cornices and wind slabs below ridgetops.  The avalanche danger remains at moderate above treeline where we still have cold snow and freshly formed wind slabs.  Warm temperatures and sun today should help stabilize these wind slabs but we are not there yet.  Dig down into the snow and look to see how well these wind slabs are bonding to the old snow surface which in many spots is on a crust that formed before the Tuesday storm.  If you find this slab not bonding well it's a good idea to head to a lower angle slope. 

With these spring storms, our strong spring sun and warm temperatures will quickly impact and warm the freshly fallen snow.  The window for good skiing after a storm can be a quick one as we transition into a melt-freeze cycle which gets us that "corn" snow that many of us like to ski.  We're not there yet, and as the cold snow warms up it looses cohesion as the surface snow gets wet and unsupportable.  Today we should see lots of loose wet avalanche activity within this storm snow.  This is an easy problem to avoid.  Rollerballs and pinwheels are obvious signs that surface snow is warming up.  Avoid steep slopes below rocks that are receiving direct sun.  If you notice any of these signs it's time to head to a shadier aspect or head home. 

Be safe out there and enjoy this amazing coverage we have - and please send us your observations!

We will issue the next advisory on Friday 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!

We will be changing up our format here shortly as we move into spring time conditions.  We will update you guys here shortly what that will look like, but we plan on issuing a regular advisory through Sunday April 9th.  

recent observations

Wednesday was a spectactular day, cold early morning temps and 5" of low density powder that fell with no wind made it feel more like January than April.  We were able to get up high on several aspects.  Moderate winds out of the WSW were tranporting snow on ridgetops creating cornice and pillows on N through E aspects that were mostly confined to ridgetops. We did notice several loose dry snow avalanches that released during the storm on Tuesday with some of them stepping down below rock bands and propagating 50 to 100 feet at most.  The high spring sun slowly warmed the snowpack putting a sun crust on most aspects expect for true north aspects.  Southerly aspects did have a couple of small loose wet avalanches in the afternoon.  Cold snow remained on N aspects above about 11,500'. Here's a video from a West aspect around 12,400' in the morning. 

Pic; Cornice breaking back further than you might expect on an East aspect from Wednesday

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.

weather

A quiet couple of days are in store for us with winds remaining light out of the NW today.  Temperatures should be warmer than yesterday with an expected high of 43°F at 9000'.  Winds will return Saturday and ramping up again on Sunday.  Long term models are showing our next chance of precip might be Tuesday of next week.  

Two-Day Mountain Weather Forecast Produced in partnership with the Albuquerque NWS
For 9000 ft. to 10000 ft.
  Thursday Thursday Night Friday
Weather: Mostly Sunny Mostly Clear Mostly sunny in the morning then becoming partly cloudy.
Temperatures: high to 43 deg. F. low to 18 deg. F. high to 52 deg. F.
Wind direction: NW SW W
Wind speed: 5-10 5-10 5-15
Expected snowfall: 0 in. 0 in. 0 in.
For 11000 ft. to 13000 ft.
  Thursday Thursday Night Friday
Weather: Mostly Sunny Mostly Clear Mostly Sunny
Temperatures: high to 33 deg. F. low to 23 deg. F. high to 39 deg. F.
Wind direction: NW SW W
Wind speed: 5-10 5-15 10-20
Expected snowfall: 0 in. 0 in. 0 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.