Avalanche Advisory published on December 4, 2017 @ 1:20 pm
Issued by Andy Bond - Taos Avalanche Center

Early Season Snowpack Update 3:  Snow from three November storms are still lingering at high elevation northerly aspects.  Moderate to strong winds this past week have produced isolated wind slabs at higher elevations.  These slabs in many places are resting on top of weak facets.  With another week of no snow and colder temperatures, our shallow snowpack will be going through some transitions before we our next shot at snow. 

No Rating


Above Treeline

No Rating


Near Treeline

No Rating


Below Treeline
advisory discussion

It certainly feels more like October than December, with that comes monitoring these "early season" conditions before we see any significant snow.  Backcountry travel is difficult and avalanches are unlikely due to the lack of connected snow. 

Observations are limited, but we have seen the developement of a depth hoar layer from the November 7 and 18 storms above 11,500 on northerly aspects.  Snow from November 28 is still hanging around above 9500 feet on nonsolar aspects.  Snow distribution has been a mixed bag, and southerly aspects are void of snow at all elevations.  Recent moderate to strong winds have produced isolated wind slabs at upper elevations on top of the weak old snow.  See pohoto below.  

Photo 1: East facing chute at 12,400 feet.  The right side of the chute is north facing and holding snow, the left side faces south and is void of snow.  

Photo 2: An example of the poor overall snowpack structure found at high elevation northerly aspects.  This was a crossloaded pocket, where windslab formed over weak sugary snow.  

We've had a delayed start to our winter, but we do have the foundation to our snowpack on high elevation northerly aspects.  With no snow in the forecast for over a week, it could be a little while before we're able to make some turns.  Even with a low snowpack and high pressure, the snowpack will be changing before we see our next snowfall.  We'll be monitoring how our existing snow fares through the forecasted high pressure. 

Keep your fingers crossed for snow, and in the meantime come out and support us on December 9! Proceeds from the 12 Days of Discounts coupon booklets benefit the Taos Avalanche Center.  We look forward to seeing you there!  

We'll be issuing intermittent backcountry conditions updates.  When conditions warrant we'll start issuing daily avalanche advisories.

The Albuquerque National Weather Service is providing us with a Backcountry Recreational Forecast again this year. Check in daily for your mountain weather forecast.

weather summary

A week ago models were looking promising for the storm Sunday/Monday, but in the last five days the storm track shifted further north leaving us with just some high clouds, moderate to strong WSW winds and the chance of a dusting tonight.  In the wake of the passing front will be cold temperatures through Thursday, with drier and warmer temperatures through the weekend.  Long-term models are not looking great with a ridge of high pressure developing over the west and no snow forecasted for Northern New Mexico through December 15th.  But we'll keep our fingers crossed that something might change!   

We don't anticipate any precipitation out of today's widespread cloud cover, and the next few days will bring back clear dry conditions.   Our next hope for snow is Tuesday and Wednesday, though the European and GFS models are still in disagreement over the timing and amount of precipitation that we may see.  Let's cross our fingers that the GFS model is more on point, as it favors better dynamics for precipitation across northern New Mexico.  


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.