THIS AVALANCHE ADVISORY EXPIRED ON December 25, 2017 @ 5:26 am
Avalanche Advisory published on December 24, 2017 @ 5:26 am
Issued by Andy Bond - Taos Avalanche Center

Avalanche danger is low for all elevations and aspectsA LOW danger does not mean NO danger. Small wind slabs exist above treeline with human triggering unlikely. You should still follow safe travel protocols when in and around avalanche terrain.  

1. Low

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Above Treeline
Generally safe avalanche conditions. Watch for unstable snow on isolated terrain features.

1. Low

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Near Treeline
Generally safe avalanche conditions. Watch for unstable snow on isolated terrain features.

1. Low

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Below Treeline
Generally safe avalanche conditions. Watch for unstable snow on isolated terrain features.
    Generally safe avalanche conditions. Watch for unstable snow on isolated terrain features.
  • 1. Low
  • 2. Moderate
  • 3. Considerable
  • 4. High
  • 5. Extreme
Avalanche Problem 1: Normal Caution
  • Type ?
  • Aspect/Elevation ?
  • Likelihood ?
    Certain
    Very Likely
    Likely
    Possible
    Unlikely
  • Size ?
    Historic
    Very Large
    Large
    Small

Human triggering of avalanches is unlikely in our mountains.  However, LOW danger does not mean NO danger.  Small avalanches can still be triggered in isolated places or in extreme terrain. The most likely place to trigger a slide today is on steep, north facing terrain above treeline that is holding enough snow to make a turn or two.   

Wind Slabs: Several days of moderate to strong west winds have produced small isolated wind slabs above treeline.  Avoid slopes that have wind drifted snow in areas below ridgelines or in cross loaded gullies.

Persistent Slabs The snowpack in specific areas above 11,000' on northerly aspects consists of crust/ weak layer combinations. These are areas with the most amount of snow, ranging from 1 to 3 feet.  These weak layers will be our greatest concern when we do get more snow.  If you're interested in what a weak snowpack structure looks like, take the time to dig down into the slope. It's hard to trust slopes that contain this snowpack structure.  It's best to play it safe and avoid these areas as even a small avalanche would be painful right now.

Loose Snow AvalanchesNorth facing or shady slopes in many places contain cohessionless facets.  Watch out for triggering a shallow loose snow sluff on steep slopes.

advisory discussion

Travel still remains difficult to impossible on skis. It's hard to believe that I haven't made a turn yet this year!  Talking with people who have been here a while, they're hard to pressed to remember a season starting out with this little snow.  Currently we sit at 14 to 19% of normal for snow water equivalent in our mountains.  With the holiday break coming up, if you find yourself traveling north for powder, be sure to check out the local avalanche advisory on Avalanche.org

The low density snow that fell Thursday night has been tranported by the moderate to strong west winds the last couple of days.  Small isolated wind slabs can be found at higher elevations, below ridgelines and in cross loaded gullies.  Most of the recent snow was blown clear into the sky and a lot of slopes have been scoured back to bare ground.  The most suspect spots will be higher elevation northerly slopes that have a recently formed wind slab on top of weaker layers down in the snowpack.   

An early season thin snow pack that is highly variable always warrants caution.  Higher elevation northerly aspects has a poor snowpack structure. Check out Andy's Video from Thursday about the snowpack structure on these slopes.   Just because we have all the ingredients for an avalanche doesn't always mean that slope will avalanche.  The best case scenario for this early season snowpack is to get a big storm (like last December) that will give these weak layers a big test and hopefully produce avalanches allowing us to start from the ground up.  The current situation is that we add a little bit of weight (.3" of SWE from Thursday) either through storms or with wind loading.  What makes this scenario so difficult is that it's hard to forecast how much stress these weak layers can take.  It's best to take a conservative approach to these slopes and assume these slopes have the potential to slide as we wait for a big storm to give these weak layers a big test.   

Enjoy the eggnog, family and friends over the holidays and hopefully we'll get some snow here shortly!  

recent observations

There was a report of a small human triggered wind slab avalanche by Taos Ski Patrol on Saturday (12/23) on a steep north facing slope.

Photo: Wind slab in Long Canyon on an ENE aspect (12/23).  This wind slab formed on bare ground around 12,000'

Weather and CURRENT CONDITIONS
weather summary

Breezy conditions will continue today with west winds in the 10 - 30 MPH range.  High clouds today should limit some of the sunshine. Christmas Day looks to be similar to today only warmer.  Models are not looking great for us through the end of 2017 with the moisture staying to our North.  We'll keep expectations low and hope that these models are wrong and maybe a storm will drop south.

Weather observations from the Wheeler Peak Wilderness between 9000 ft. and 13000 ft.
0600 temperature: 11.3 deg. F.
Max. temperature in the last 24 hours: 20.2 deg. F.
Average wind direction during the last 24 hours: W
Average wind speed during the last 24 hours: 28 mph
Maximum wind gust in the last 24 hours: 68 mph
New snowfall in the last 24 hours: 0 inches
Total snow depth: 7.4 inches
Two-Day Mountain Weather Forecast Produced in partnership with the Albuquerque NWS
For 9000 ft. to 10000 ft.
Sunday Sunday Night Monday
Weather: Mostly Sunny Partly Cloudy Partly Cloudy
Temperatures: 36 deg. F. 25 deg. F. 41 deg. F.
Wind Direction: W W W
Wind Speed: 5-20 10-25 10-25
Expected snowfall: 0 in. 0 in. 0 in.
For 11000 ft. to 13000 ft.
Sunday Sunday Night Monday
Weather: Partly Cloudy Partly Cloudy Partly Cloudy
Temperatures: 24-30 deg. F. 22 deg. F. 28-35 deg. F.
Wind Direction: W W W
Wind Speed: 10-25 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.