THIS AVALANCHE ADVISORY EXPIRED ON December 26, 2017 @ 5:51 am
Avalanche Advisory published on December 25, 2017 @ 5:51 am
Issued by Hannah McGowan - Taos Avalanche Center

Avalanche danger is low for all elevations and aspects.  LOW danger does not mean NO danger. Human triggered avalanches are unlikely, though isolated wind slabs exist above treeline.  It is still important to follow safe travel protocols when in and around avalanche terrain.  

1. Low


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

1. Low


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

1. Low


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 ?
    Very Likely
  • Size ?
    Very Large

Human triggered avalanches are unlikely in our mountains today.  However, LOW danger does not mean NO danger.  Small avalanches can still be triggered in isolated places or in extreme terrain.  Places that hold enough snow to invite the possibility of skiing are exactly the places where the most avalanche danger exists.  These are steep, north facing slopes above treeline that have managed to hold snow since it started falling in November.  Though an avalanche would be small, taking a ride in one would not be pretty with our limited snow coverge. 

Wind Slabs: Moderate to strong west winds over the last few days have produced small isolated wind slabs above treeline.  Avoid slopes in areas below ridgelines or in cross loaded gullies that have wind drifted snow, smooth surfaces, or make hollow/drum-like sounds underfoot.  

Persistent Slabs High, shady slopes above 11,000' have a weak snowpack structure often consisting of crust/weak layer combinations. These are the areas with the most snow, where depths range from 1 to 3 feet.  When we do get more snow, these are the places that will be of highest concern.  This is a great time to get to know whats going on lower in the snowpack, as it does not take much time to dig into the snow 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

Merry Christmas and Happy Winter Holidays from us here at the TAC!  

Usually by this time of year our legs are ready to be on skis all day, but this is just a different year for the state of New Mexico.  In Albequerque, this season is on the verge of going down in the books amongst the top 5 worst seasons for measurable precipitation of all time.  Hopefully the lack of powder panic at least makes for some good time visiting with family for the holidays.  What's better than talking about the snow we don't have? Talking about the snow we do have...

The last few days have been characterized by moderate to strong west winds, which have redistributed much of Thursday's low density snow above treeline.  Quite a bit of the new snow is in Oklahoma by now, and we're back to bare ground on many windward ridges and exposed terrain features.  However, the rest of the snow that was picked up by the wind was deposited below ridgelines or in gullies prone to crossloading.  As a result there are isolated pockets of windslab above treeline that are even full blown hard slab in some places.  At the moment these are the places with the most avalanche danger, and its best to avoid travelling on the small pockets of snow with smooth surfaces and hollow sounds under foot.  

Its hard to trust a lean, highly variable snowpack.  Above treeline on the northerly aspects what we're seeing is a crust/facet layer cake that is highly variable place to place.  What does not vary is the overall weak structure of the snowpack in these places.  However, just because we have all the ingredients for an avalanche doesn't always mean that slope will avalanche.  It is important to note that we haven't seen much in the way of avalanche evidence associated with this storm and the wind that followed.  Its hard to say at what tipping point these weak layers will fail, as stress is added to the snowpack in future storms.  Before any of that happens, in this long period of high pressure, the snow will be changing in a variety of ways and we will continue to monitor it closely.  

If you find yourself traveling north for the holidays, be sure to check out the local avalanche advisory on before enjoying the powder

recent observations

Photo 1: These pictures illustrate changes in the snow coverage throughout the last few days.  Top to Bottom: Snow coverage just before the most recent storm storm (Thurday); New snow from Thursday night before the wind kicked up (Friday); A mix of scoured and windloaded slopes (Sunday). 

Photo 2: ~20cms of hard slab created by wind in La Cal Basin on an NE aspect (12/24).


weather summary

Breezy conditions will continue today with west winds in the 10 - 30 MPH range.  Besides the wind, today looks similar to the next several, with daytime temperatures in the low 40's and intermittent cloud cover.  Looking forward with regards to snowfall, models are showing a dry period that lasts through the at least the end of the year.   With plenty of moisture to our north, the possiblity exists that the models are wrong and a storm could drop south, but lets not hold our breath. 

Weather observations from the Wheeler Peak Wilderness between 9000 ft. and 13000 ft.
0600 temperature: 23 deg. F.
Max. temperature in the last 24 hours: 31 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: 47 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.
Monday Monday Night Tuesday
Weather: Partly Cloudy Mostly Clear Mostly Sunny
Temperatures: 42 deg. F. 21 deg. F. 43 deg. F.
Wind Direction: W W W
Wind Speed: 10-30 5-20 5-20
Expected snowfall: 0 in. 0 in. 0 in.
For 11000 ft. to 13000 ft.
Monday Monday Night Tuesday
Weather: Mostly to Partly Cloudy Mostly Clear Mostly Sunny
Temperatures: 29-36 deg. F. 21 deg. F. 32-37 deg. F.
Wind Direction: W W W
Wind Speed: 15-30 10-25 10-25
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.