THIS AVALANCHE ADVISORY EXPIRED ON December 23, 2017 @ 6:18 am
Avalanche Advisory published on December 22, 2017 @ 6:18 am
Issued by Andy Bond - Taos Avalanche Center

Moderate avalanche danger exists today near and above treeline due to storm slab and isolated persistent slab avalanche problems.  Below treeline avalanche danger is low. Human triggered avalanche remain possible today.  Evaluate snow and terrain carefully; identifying areas where avalanche problems exist.

2. Moderate

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Above Treeline
Heightened avalanche conditions on specific terrain features. Evaluate snow and terrain carefully; identify features of concern.

2. Moderate

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Near Treeline
Heightened avalanche conditions on specific terrain features. Evaluate snow and terrain carefully; identify features of concern.

1. Low

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Below Treeline
Generally safe avalanche conditions. Watch for unstable snow on isolated terrain features.
    Heightened avalanche conditions on specific terrain features. Evaluate snow and terrain carefully; identify features of concern.
  • 1. Low
  • 2. Moderate
  • 3. Considerable
  • 4. High
  • 5. Extreme
Avalanche Problem 1: Storm Slab
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3 to 6" of low density snow fell last night with light winds out of the SW.  The new snow fell on variety of surfaces from facets, crusts and bare ground.  The main concern are slopes that had snow on the ground prior to this storm. Winds look to pick up today out of the west and with all this fresh snow available to transport, expect to see leeward slopes and cross loaded gullies holding wind drifted snow.  Avoid areas where you find 6" or more of new or wind drifted snow as these slopes will be the most suspect.  

Avalanche Problem 2: Persistent Slab
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Snow from earlier November storms remains above treeline on North aspects, with specific areas that have been wind loaded containing a weak snowpack structure. This slab/weak layer combination in not everywhere so it's a good idea to dig down into the slopes you plan to travel on to assess if this weak snowpack structure exists.  Be aware that a smaller avalanche has the potential to step down into these deeper layers. 

Photo: An example of what to look for above treeline on North Aspects

advisory discussion

3 to 6" of snow from the storm last night fell on a variety of surfaces ranging from facets, crusts and bare ground.  The low density snow that did fall will be availble for wind transport depositing snow on  the leeward side of slopes and in cross loaded gullies.  Remember that wind transported snow can load a slope 10 times faster than when it's falling from the sky.  Winds will be picking up today and tonight out of the west.  Loose snow avalanches can also be expected especially in steep terrain where the snow from last night fell on cohessionless facets.     

Areas above treeline on northerly aspects have the most snow coverage. These slopes also have the potential to contain a weak snowpack structure similar to what we found on Thursday.  Check out Andy's Video  about the snowpack structure on these slopes.  

It finally feels like winter, but with that has come an increase in avalanche danger. Avoid areas where you find 6" or more of new or wind drifted snow.  If you find yourself playing outside today in the new snow, it's a good idea to dig a quick pit on each slope you plan to travel on.  This will not take much time but will be important as we have a lot of variability in our snowpack.  Coverage is still really thin, and hazards exist everywhere. A small avalanche, even if not buried would be painful and could cause injuries.  It's great to see our mountains white! Play it safe, we still have a long season ahead of us.   

    

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'.  Anywhere from 2-8" of faceted snow can be found below and near treeline on northerly aspects.   Above treeline areas have been impacted by wind events.  Deeper snow pockets (1 to 3' ) can be found in cross loaded gullies and below ridge lines in spots.  Overall these areas have a weak overall snowpack structure, with stability tests indicating that any of these faceted weak layers are able to propogate.  Aspects that are not Northerly at all elevations had very patchy snow, but was mostly bare ground before the storm last night.   

Photo: A small wind slab on a NNE aspect above treeline with faceted snow beneath

 

Weather and CURRENT CONDITIONS
weather summary

Lingering snow showers this morning with colder temperatures today.  Sunshine looks to return in the afternoon with light winds out of the north.  Winds look to pick up tonight (10 -30 MPH) out the west.  Warmer temperatures and sunny weather are in the forecast for Saturday through Christmas Day.      

Weather observations from the Wheeler Peak Wilderness between 9000 ft. and 13000 ft.
0600 temperature: 4.5 deg. F.
Max. temperature in the last 24 hours: 19.4 deg. F.
Average wind direction during the last 24 hours: SW
Average wind speed during the last 24 hours: 10 mph
Maximum wind gust in the last 24 hours: 16 mph
New snowfall in the last 24 hours: 2-4 inches
Total snow depth: 7 inches
Two-Day Mountain Weather Forecast Produced in partnership with the Albuquerque NWS
For 9000 ft. to 10000 ft.
Friday Friday Night Saturday
Weather: Partly Cloudy in the morning then clearing Mostly Clear Mostly Sunny
Temperatures: 30 deg. F. 18 deg. F. 37 deg. F.
Wind Direction: NW W W
Wind Speed: 5-10 5-20 5-20
Expected snowfall: 0 in. 0 in. 0 in.
For 11000 ft. to 13000 ft.
Friday Friday Night Saturday
Weather: Partly Cloudy in the morning then clearing Mostly Clear Mostly Sunny
Temperatures: 18-24 deg. F. 16 deg. F. 25 - 31 deg. F.
Wind Direction: NW W W
Wind Speed: 5-10 15-30 15-30
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.