THIS AVALANCHE ADVISORY EXPIRED ON December 27, 2017 @ 5:17 am
Avalanche Advisory published on December 26, 2017 @ 5:17 am
Issued by Hannah McGowan - Taos Avalanche Center

Avalanche danger is LOW for all aspects and elevations.  Human triggered avalanches are unlikely,  though isolated windslabs exist above treeline.  Normal caution while traveling in the backcountry is advised.   

 

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 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 where making a turn or two is possible 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, with our limited snow coverage, taking a ride in one would definitely hurt. 

Wind Slabs: Moderate to strong west winds that followed Thursday night's storm have produced small isolated wind slabs above treeline.  Avoid areas below ridgelines or in cross loaded gullies that have wind drifted snow or 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 places will be of highest concern.  The dry spell we're in is a great opportunity to put time towards understanding whats going on lower in the snowpack.

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

I hope you all had a wonderful holiday!  While all that celebrating was going on yesterday, there were no significant changes to the avalanche conditions.  Backcounty travel on your snow tool of choice would still be a stretch, as pockets of 1-3' of snow are largely disconnected. 

The west winds ramped up after Thursday night's snowfall,  and much of that new, low density snow has been redistributed.  Above treeline, snow was stripped from windward ridges and exposed terrain features, which are now bare ground again.  Some of that snow was blasted into the air and is now on the fast track through the water cycle.  However, the rest of the snow that was picked up by the wind was deposited below ridgelines or in crossloaded gullies.  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 underfoot.  

It's wise to be wary of a lean, highly variable snowpack.  Above treeline on the northerly aspects there is a crust/facet layer cake that is different everywhere you look.  Regardless of specific layers, what these places all have in common is an overall weak structure.  That being said, just because we have the makings of an avalanche, doesn't necessarily mean that slope will avalanche.  It is important to note that the incremental loading of this last storm and the winds that followed have produced very few avalanches.  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 in search of powder, be sure to check out the local avalanche advisory on Avalanche.org.

recent observations

Photo 1: Snow coverage on the west side of the Williams Lake area

Photo 2: Windaffected snow on Wheeler Peak

Photo 3: Changes in the snow coverage over the last several days.  Top to Bottom: Thursday- snow coverage just before the most recent storm; Friday- new snow from Thursday night before the wind kicked up; Sunday- A mix of scoured and windloaded slopes. 

 

 

Weather and CURRENT CONDITIONS
weather summary

The winds of the last few days have dropped off, and conditions today look similar to the next several days.  Daytime temperatures are forecasted in the upper 30's and skies will be mostly clear.  With regards to snowfall, models are showing a dry period that lasts through the at least the end of the year.  The possiblity always exists that the models are wrong, so lets hope for that. 

Weather observations from the Wheeler Peak Wilderness between 9000 ft. and 13000 ft.
0600 temperature: 19 deg. F.
Max. temperature in the last 24 hours: 34 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: 31 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.
Tuesday Tuesday Night Wednesday
Weather: Mostly Sunny Partly Cloudy Mostly Sunny
Temperatures: 44 deg. F. 21-26 deg. F. 43 deg. F.
Wind Direction: W W W
Wind Speed: 5-20 5-15 5-20
Expected snowfall: 0 in. 0 in. 0 in.
For 11000 ft. to 13000 ft.
Tuesday Tuesday Night Wednesday
Weather: Mostly Sunny Partly Cloudy Mostly Sunny
Temperatures: 32-38 deg. F. 22 deg. F. 32-37 deg. F.
Wind Direction: W W W
Wind Speed: 10-20 10-20 10-20
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.