THIS AVALANCHE ADVISORY EXPIRED ON December 22, 2017 @ 6:51 am
Avalanche Advisory published on December 21, 2017 @ 6:51 am
Issued by Andy Bond - Taos Avalanche Center

Early Season Snowpack Update 6:  1 to 3" of snow is forecasted throughout the day.  Strong SW winds will transport available snow onto the leeward sides of slopes. Avalanche danger is currently low but could rise during the day into tonight near and above treeline if we see the higher end of the forecasted snow totals. Avoid areas where you find 6" or more of wind drifted snow.  Remember even a small avalanche can be dangerous.

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Above Treeline

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Near Treeline

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Below Treeline
advisory discussion

1 to 3 inches of snow is expected to fall today and tonight.  The snow we do get, will be falling on a variable 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 on northerly aspects. Other slopes are just bare ground right now. Avalanche danger remains low, but could increase tonight if we see the higher end of the forecasted snow totals.  Moderate to strong SW winds could create wind drifted snow especially below ridgelines and in cross loaded gullies.  Avoid steeper slopes where you find more than 6" of wind drifted snow as triggering an avalanche is possible.  Even a small avalanche, not big enough to bury you can be dangerous in our thin snowpack.   

It's been a delayed start to our winter and we all want some snow to ski or ride. It's a good day to take the time to dust off our avalanche gear and make sure everything works.  Hopefully today's snow will kick off our winter season with more frequent storms.   

 

Photo: Wind slabs with faceted layers in the snowpack   

 

 

We'll issue another update on Friday Dec 22nd.  When conditions warrant we'll start issuing daily avalanche advisories.  

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 and CURRENT CONDITIONS
weather summary

An upper level closed low will move slowly southeast to the four corners region today bringing with it light snow accumulations ( 1 - 3") and moderate to strong SW winds (15 - 30 MPH).  Snow levels will hover around 9000' during the day and drop to the valley bottoms tonight.  Most of the moisture will remain to our north and west with this system.  Warmer temperatures look to return Saturday and Sunday.  After Christmas we might see some more moisture before the New Year.     

Weather observations from the Wheeler Peak Wilderness between 9000 ft. and 13000 ft.
0600 temperature: 16 deg. F.
Max. temperature in the last 24 hours: 29 deg. F.
Average wind direction during the last 24 hours: SW
Average wind speed during the last 24 hours: 23 mph
Maximum wind gust in the last 24 hours: 45 mph
New snowfall in the last 24 hours: 0 inches
Total snow depth: 7 inches
Two-Day Mountain Weather Forecast Produced in partnership with the Albuquerque NWS
For 9000 ft. to 10000 ft.
Thursday Thursday Night Friday
Weather: Partly Cloudy. Scattered snow showers in the afternoon Mostly Cloudy with scattered snow showers Mostly Sunny
Temperatures: 35 deg. F. 9 deg. F. 30 deg. F.
Wind Direction: SW SW NW
Wind Speed: 10-25 5-10 5-10
Expected snowfall: 0.2-0.5 in. 1 - 2 in. 0 in.
For 11000 ft. to 13000 ft.
Thursday Thursday Night Friday
Weather: Partly Cloudy. Scattered snow showers in the afternoon Mostly Cloudy with scattered snow showers Mostly Sunny
Temperatures: 21-27 deg. F. 8 deg. F. 17 - 23 deg. F.
Wind Direction: SW SW NW
Wind Speed: 15-30 5-15 5-10
Expected snowfall: 0.2 - 0.5 in. 1.2 -2.6 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.