THIS AVALANCHE ADVISORY EXPIRED ON December 15, 2017 @ 8:02 am
Avalanche Advisory published on December 11, 2017 @ 8:02 am
Issued by Andy Bond - Taos Avalanche Center

Early Season Snowpack Update 4:  There's still not enough continous snow to ski or ride.   Fortunately, the high pressure ridge is breaking down and we'll keep our fingers crossed that storms track our way this weekend.  A shallow faceted snowpack exists above 11,000' on shady and northerly aspects. Although not a major concern right now, once we get snow and introduce a cohessive slab on top, this will be our first problematic weak layer of the season.


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advisory discussion

For those of us that love to ski or ride in the mountains, the last month has been disapointing with a late start to winter.  Staying positive right now, hopefully this means a lot of snow January through April! At least that's what I keep telling myself.  The Sangre de Cristo Mountain Range is currently at 21 to 30% average for snow water equivalent, which isn't great but at least we have some snow in the mountains.

Even though there isn't enough snow to ski or ride, the high elevation snow that is found on northerly and east aspects is still of importance to us.  Recent cold temperatures and clear nights have impacted our shallow snowpack producing 2-3mm sized depth hoar.  This weak sugary like snow (can't make a snowball out of it) has the potential to be our nemisis for a long time.   When we do finally get snow, we'll be talking about this layer a lot! 

Photo: Faceted crystals in our snowpack from 12/9


Bottom Line:  Avalanches are unlikely at this time, but even if traveling on foot watch out for isolated wind slabs that are able to support your weight.  Dig down and see what's lurking underneath this surface slab, as a slab/weak layer combination is always a risk to avalanche. Be aware of loose snow avalanches on steep slopes as our snowpack continues to facet and weaken. Even a small avalanche has the potential to injure you in steep terrain.  

We'll be issuing intermittent backcountry conditions updates.  When conditions warrant we'll start issuing daily avalanche advisories.  Stay positive,  it will snow eventually, even if it means having to wait until 2018!

The Albuquerque National Weather Service is providing us with a Backcountry Recreational Forecast again this year. Check in daily for your mountain weather forecast.

weather summary

A couple more days of warm dry weather before a series of back door cold fronts enters our area bringing with it colder temperatures by Thursday.  These systems look to be moisture starved.  A series of weak upper level low pressures systems look to remain to our north starting Saturday through Monday.  These storms are still a long ways a way and right now we'll take any good news!  For us, it's that the Omega Block producing High Pressure across the west is breaking down hopefully allowing storms from the Pacific Northwest to drop south.

A lot of you have been asking about this weather pattern that we are in:  Kerry Jones with the Albuquerque National Weather Service explains this "Omega Block"

There are two main types of blocking patterns in the atmosphere:  Omega block refers to a pattern that resembles the Greek letter omega.   The current pattern a super high amplitude Omega block.    The other pattern is a Rex Block, where   strong high pressure develops above low pressure or a  "high over low" pattern.     Both patterns can persist for several days but they usually don't sustain themselves for more than a week or so.    Think of throwing a sizeable rock in a small stream.   The rock will block the water flow for a time until enough water builds up behind the block to move it out of the way.    They develop kinda like a traffic jam on the interstate.     In the current case,  an anomalously deep upper level trough that carved out of the eastern U.S.  forced a huge buckle in the flow that resulted in the strong, high amplitude ridge over the west.  Pattern looks to get more favorable for us after 12/18.


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.