THIS AVALANCHE ADVISORY EXPIRED ON February 19, 2017 @ 5:27 am
Avalanche Advisory published on February 18, 2017 @ 5:27 am
Issued by Andy Bond - Taos Avalanche Center

LOW avalanche danger exists at all elevations.  LOW danger does not mean no danger and unstable snow may still linger on isolated terrain features. Small avalanches could still occur in isolated or extreme terrain.  Evaluate the terrain and snowpack while traveling in the backcountry to identify where these isolated areas of unstable snow may still exist.


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: Persistent Slab
  • Type ?
  • Aspect/Elevation ?
  • Likelihood ?
    Very Likely
  • Size ?
    Very Large

Warm temps the last few days and cold clear nights with solid freezes has put us in a melt-freeze cycle.  Although persistent slab avalanches are unlikely today the snowpack structure remains shallow and weak in isolated areas, with small grained (rounding) facets buried below a hard slab. This past week we've found shallow areas that still have basal facets on the ground.  See the video from Wednesday.   It's a good idea to investigate the slope you plan to play on by digging a few pits and identifying if these weak layers are able to propagate.  Areas of concern are likely trigger points, near rocks and shallower areas. 

advisory discussion

Above freezing temperatures have finally made they're way above treeline the last two days with good solid freezes at night as we are in a melt-freeze cycle.  These warm temps have done a lot to heal the wind slabs above treeline.  Although avalanche conditions are generally safe, A LOW danger does not mean NO danger.  The potential is there to still trigger an avalanche on isolated slopes.  Some issues that may be encountered are loose wet snow avalanches below treeline if the forecast verifies with light sprinkles of rain and isolated small hard slabs of wind drifted snow above treeline.  Also, persistent slabs, with our weak overall snowpack shouldn't stray far from our minds.

Loose wet snow avalanches have subsided the last couple of days with good solid freezes at night.  Isolated rain showers in the afternoon today could reach as high as 10,000' before turning to snow.  The forecast is for not much rain during the day, before turning to snow as the system moves in tonight.  If the rain picks up and is more than just a little sprinkle be aware of water percolating into deeper layers or the ground in shallow areas below treeline.   

Pay attention to areas above treeline that are still harboring dry snow and isolated areas that have small hard slabs from the wind earlier in the week.  Even a small avalanche in high consequence terrain could be a enough to take you off your feet and take you for a nasty ride.  

Persistent slab avalanches are becoming unlikely to trigger, but the overall structure remains. It's been a little over two weeks since we saw our last natural avalanche. Small grained facted weak layers that are 50 to 60cm down in the snowpack are starting to round and heal with these warm temps the last couple of days.  In shallower snowpacks where we have hard slabs sitting on top of basal facets that weak layer is still present but is showing signs of dormancy.  I don't believe we've put this layer to bed for the year and will have to keep an eye on it as we start adding new snow loads to it.  



We are going to do another avalanche talk this Wednesday February 22nd at 6PM at Taos Mesa Brewing (Mothership).  The talk this week will be a season snowpack review and hopefully a productive discussion about backcountry rescue and the challenges we have here in Northern New Mexico.

If you get into the backcountry, please drop us a line at or on the "Submit Observations" tab at the top of the homepage.  Your field observations are extremely helpful, no matter how simple, and we thank all of you who have shared.

Need to brush up on your beacon skills?  Check out the NEW beacon practice problem we have out at Taos Ski Valley.  This is a new beacon problem for the week of 2/14 - 2/21. High pressure is a great time to get some training in before our next storm this weekend.  Thank you Taos Ski Patrol for your continued support!  We will switch the problem up on Monday or Tuesday - stay tuned.

If you're looking to get some exercise and support a great cause look into the Ben Myers Ridge-A-Thon.  This event has been going on now for 20 Years. Come hike the ridge at Taos Ski Valley March 17 & 18th and raise some money that benefits our community!

recent observations

Warm temps and cold clear nights with solid freezes have put us in a melt-freeze cycle.  Digging pits yesterday we found facet crust combos in the top 10 to 20cm of the snowpack on NE aspects (See Video).  This is not a concern right now but could be with more snow from this weekends storm.  Warm temps have created slabs that were failing where we were above the crust anywhere from 2 to 6" down.  Near surface facets in the trees made for ok skiing.  We'll have to see what happens on Saturday with warm temps and the potential for sprinkles of rain below 10,000' before turning to snow in the evening.  Saturday will tell us a lot as to how well the new snow will bond to the existing snow surface.   

Pic: "Recycled" Powder below treeline in the trees

weather summary

A ridge of high pressure will shift to our east today as trough of low pressure moves onto the west coast bringing lots of clouds to area today. Showers could develop in the afternoon with snow levels hovering around 10,000' before droping this evening to 7500'.  Winds will remain calm this morning before picking up ( 5 - 15 MPH) out of the south in the afternoon.  The main part of the system arrives on Sunday but looks to go mostly south of us producing light to moderate snow showers at times during the day on Sunday with snow levels around 8000'.   


Weather observations from the Wheeler Peak Wilderness between 9000 ft. and 13000 ft.
0600 temperature: 26.5 deg. F.
Max. temperature in the last 24 hours: 34.5 deg. F.
Average wind direction during the last 24 hours: SW
Average wind speed during the last 24 hours: 11 mph
Maximum wind gust in the last 24 hours: 35 mph
New snowfall in the last 24 hours: 0 inches
Total snow depth: 72.1 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 cloudy with isolated rain showers Partly cloudy with isolated snow showers Numerous snow showers
Temperatures: high to 46 deg. F. low to 28 deg. F. high to 38 deg. F.
Wind Direction: SW shifting to S S SW
Wind Speed: 0-5 in the morning than 5 - 15 in the afternoon 5-15 5-15
Expected snowfall: 0.01 -0.03 inches of water in. 0.1 - 0.3 in. 0.2 - 2.5 in.
For 11000 ft. to 13000 ft.
Saturday Saturday Night Sunday
Weather: Partly cloudy with isolated snow showers Partly cloudy with isolated snow showers Numerous snow showers
Temperatures: high to 37 deg. F. low to 22 deg. F. high to 30 deg. F.
Wind Direction: S S SW
Wind Speed: 5-15 10-15 5-15
Expected snowfall: 0.1 - 0.2 in. 0.1 - 0.2 in. 1.6 - 3.0 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.