THIS AVALANCHE ADVISORY EXPIRED ON December 21, 2017 @ 7:14 am
Avalanche Advisory published on December 19, 2017 @ 7:14 am
Issued by Andy Bond - Taos Avalanche Center

Early Season Snowpack Update 5:  It's been a December that looks and feels more like October.  Snow remains only on higher elevation terrain (above ~9500') on northerly aspects. Unfortunately there has not been enough snow to ski or ride.  If you find yourself hiking around on a steep northerly slope be aware of wind slabs that have faceted (sugarly-like) snow beneath.  Triggering an avalanche is unlikely, but it's best to avoid these slopes and play it safe.  

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advisory discussion

It's hard to believe it's the middle of December and Christmas is right around the corner.  A prolonged dry period is nothing new to us here in Northern New Mexico.  Last February comes to mind as the most recent example.  With not enough snow to slide on, this dry period has been tough.  The possibility of storms ten days out are the fodder of conversations, only to see these storms track well to our north or south, like last Sunday.  We're looking at a similar situation starting Thursday through Sunday with the possibility of snow in our mountains.  It's still to early to tell how much snow, but we'll keep our fingers crossed that our mountains will be white for Christmas! 

With not enough snow to ski or ride, it's hard to get your head back into the avalanche game. If we do see significant snow, expect the avalanche danger to rise. Whatever snow we do get, will be falling on a very unstable snowpack.  The snowpack on shady aspects above 9500' consists of sugary faceted snow, crusts and at higher elevations a layer cake of wind slabs and facets.  Other slopes are just bare ground right now.  If we do receive enough snow to slide on in these next couple of storms, the hard part will be identifying slopes that currently have snow on them.  These slopes will be our most suspect going forward. 

Photo 1: Wind slabs with faceted layers in the snowpack   






We'll issue another update on Thursday Dec 21st.  When conditions warrant we'll start issuing daily avalanche advisories.  Stay positive, hopefully we'll have a white Christmas!

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

recent observations

Travel has been confined to hiking boots and mostly sticking to established trails to assess our snowpack.  Snow from November is still lingering on northerly and shady aspects conservatively above 9500'.  At higher elevations above treeline on northerly aspects, isolated pockets of wind slab exist with faceted layers below.  Other areas have 2 to 8" of faceted snow and other slopes have crusts that have formed from our long dry period of sunny/ warm days.  Overall we have a weak snowpack where snow still exists.  A lot of the terrain remains bare ground.

Photo: A pocket of wind slab on a NNE aspect above treeline

weather summary

Warm temperatures and sunny skies will remain with us Tuesday and Wednesday.  Winds look to pick up Wednesday out of the west in front of the first of two storm systems.  The first of two storm systems will be approaching the 4 corners area by Thursday, bringing with it colder temperatures, strong winds and we'll keep our fingers crossed for snow!  A second system will be moving in Saturday into Sunday, with Christmas Day looking sunny.  There is still a lot of uncertainity with these storms but we'll keep our fingers crossed for a white Christmas!

Two-Day Mountain Weather Forecast Produced in partnership with the Albuquerque NWS
For 9000 ft. to 10000 ft.
Tuesday Tuesday Night Wednesday
Weather: Partly Cloudy in the morning then clearing. Mostly Clear Mostly Sunny
Temperatures: 43 deg. F. 20-25 deg. F. 44 deg. F.
Wind Direction: W W W
Wind Speed: 5-10 5-10 10-25
Expected snowfall: 0 in. 0 in. 0 in.
For 11000 ft. to 13000 ft.
Tuesday Tuesday Night Wednesday
Weather: Partly Cloudy in the morning then clearing. Mostly Clear Mostly Sunny
Temperatures: 29-37 deg. F. 20-25 deg. F. 31-38 deg. F.
Wind Direction: N W W
Wind Speed: 5-10 5-15 15-30
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.