THIS AVALANCHE ADVISORY EXPIRED ON December 31, 2017 @ 5:35 am
Avalanche Advisory published on December 30, 2017 @ 5:35 am
Issued by Andy Bond - Taos Avalanche Center

Avalanche danger is LOW today at all elevations. Normal caution is advised as triggering an avalanche is unlikely. Snow is confined to north aspects above 11,000'.  If traveling in this terrain be aware of small isolated wind slabs on top of weaker snow.

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

Triggering an avalanche today remains unlikely. A thin variable snowpack exists with most slopes not holding enough snow to avalanche. Any potential hazard will be found on northwest through northeast aspects where moderate to strong winds have produced small isolated surface slabs.  It's where these slabs sit on top of weak faceted snow that there's potential to trigger an avalanche.  Most of these slabs are not continuous and would only produce a small avalanche.  We'll be stuck in low avalanche danger for a while longer until we get a storm producing cohesive slabs capping our weak snowpack on north aspects

advisory discussion

Generally safe avalanche conditions exist in New Mexico's Sangre de Cristo mountains.  This won't change until we get more snow, which is looking increasingly like we'll have to wait for at least another week.  The beginning to the 2017/2018 winter season has a good chance as going down as one of the worst starts on record.  The totals so far this year read more like a storm total from a one day storm last year.  14" of snow and 1.2" of snow water equivalent is all we've seen so far in November and December, with our last snow falling on 12/23.  Most of the storms this year have stayed well to our north.  Next weekend, will hopefully bring a pattern shift, with more frequent storms to the southwest.  Staying on the positive side, at least the biking, hiking and climbing are still good with this warm sunny weather.   

Avoiding avalanches today is easy as most slopes are back to bare ground or consisting of non-continuous patches of snow.  Isolated danger can still be found on higher elevation northwest through northeast slopes below ridgelines and in cross loaded gullies where you can find slabs of harder wind blown snow.  These slabs, in many places, are resting on weaker sugary like snow near the ground.  If you find this slab/weak layer combination, the potential is there for a small surface slab to step down into deeper weaker layers.  Any avalanche would be small but with limited snow coverage lots of ground hazards still exist.     

We're committed to producing a product you want to see.  The lack of snow has made it hard on us at the Taos Avalanche Center in year two of operation, but we'll stay positive, as we have a lot of the winter season still left.  For many of us, we haven't had the opportunity to play with our new gear in the snow yet. Here's a great article from Doug Chabot with the Gallatin Avalanche Center in MT about the importance of being prepared when traveling in avalanche terrain.  As we wait for snow, it's a great time to get you're hands on your gear and know how it all works.   If you find yourself traveling elsewhere in search of powder, be sure to check out the local avalanche advisory on Avalanche.org for the area you're in!

recent observations

This long dry period has allowed us to get out into a lot of different areas of our forecast area.  We have more snow in the Williams Lake area with snow still lingering on north and some east aspects.  Patchy snow can be found below treeline with any semblance of a snowpack existing above 11,000' on northerly aspects.  The "snowpack" is anywhere from 2 to 12" primarily consisting of facets.  Isolated pockets of wind slabs can be found at higher elevations on northerly aspects often times resting on top of weak faceted snow.  We've found these pockets to range anywhere from 1 to 3' in depth. 

Photo 1: Northeast facing slopes at 11,500' with a snowpack ranging from 2 to 12" of facets

   

Photo 2: A shallow snowpack at 12,150' on Lobo Peak.  A small soft wind slab on top of 1 to 2mm facets

Weather and CURRENT CONDITIONS
weather summary

Near record warm temperatures are forecasted for northern New Mexico today before a backdoor cold pushes through on Sunday.  Winds will remain moderate to strong out of the west.  It looks like we'll have high pressure through the first week of January.  But there is some hope out there. GFS, Canadian and the ECMWF models are in relatively good agreement that a bonafide weather pattern change will, at least take shape next weekend. This shift allows the pattern over the Pacific to let loose and become more progressive, allowing upper level troughs to move ashore over central/southern CA and eventually over the southwest. It's still a ways out but we'll take any good news we can get at this point.

Weather observations from the Wheeler Peak Wilderness between 9000 ft. and 13000 ft.
0600 temperature: 27.4 deg. F.
Max. temperature in the last 24 hours: 32.9 deg. F.
Average wind direction during the last 24 hours: WSW
Average wind speed during the last 24 hours: 16 mph
Maximum wind gust in the last 24 hours: 40 mph
New snowfall in the last 24 hours: 0 inches
Total snow depth: 7.8 inches
Two-Day Mountain Weather Forecast Produced in partnership with the Albuquerque NWS
For 9000 ft. to 10000 ft.
Saturday Saturday Night Sunday
Weather: Mostly Sunny Mostly Clear Partly Cloudy
Temperatures: 48-53 deg. F. 23 deg. F. 41 deg. F.
Wind Direction: W W SW
Wind Speed: 5-25 5-30 5-15
Expected snowfall: 0 in. 0 in. 0 in.
For 11000 ft. to 13000 ft.
Saturday Saturday Night Sunday
Weather: Mostly Sunny Mostly Clear Partly Cloudy
Temperatures: 38-45 deg. F. 21 deg. F. 28-35 deg. F.
Wind Direction: W W W
Wind Speed: 10-20 increasing to 15 to 30 in the afternoon 10-30 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.