THIS AVALANCHE ADVISORY EXPIRED ON February 21, 2017 @ 5:16 am
Avalanche Advisory published on February 20, 2017 @ 5:16 am
Issued by Graham Turnage - Taos Avalanche Center

LOW avalanche danger exists at all elevations.  Natural and human triggered avalanches are unlikely.  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. 


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 few 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. 

Persistent slab avalanches have become unlikely to trigger, but the possibility still exists. 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 mid-season snowpack review and hopefully a productive discussion about backcountry rescue and the related challenges we face 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.  Snowpits from the last few days reveal 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 we will keep an eye on it moving forward.   We also observed recently formed near surface facets in the top few inches of the snowpack in many locations, capped by stiff wind crusts and the begingings of surface wind slabs.

We spent the weekend in various zones in the greater Williams Lake drainage.  Surface wind crusts were the norm on any unprotected slopes, while the trees were preserving generally soft snow in the form of "recylced powder", also known as near surface facets.  We discussed the need to maintain our safe travel habits in this video, despite the LOW danger rating.  We picked up an "angry inch" on Sunday, which was mostly graupel, and was more like half an inch.  This improved the skiing ever so slightly but did not effect stability.  Stability test results were unremarkable, and we found the basal facets sitting on the ground continue to gain strenght.  Winds swirled midday on Sunday, moving a bit of snow, but not enough to form slabs in most places.

Pic: "Recycled" Powder below treeline in the trees

weather summary

A ridge of high pressure will build over New Mexico from the west today allowing high temperatures to rebound around 5 to 10 degrees above Sunday`s readings. The warming trend will continue through Wednesday in most places with record high temperatures likely.

Weather observations from the Wheeler Peak Wilderness between 9000 ft. and 13000 ft.
0600 temperature: 14.3 deg. F.
Max. temperature in the last 24 hours: 28 deg. F.
Average wind direction during the last 24 hours: WNW
Average wind speed during the last 24 hours: 14 mph
Maximum wind gust in the last 24 hours: 29 mph
New snowfall in the last 24 hours: 1/2 inches
Total snow depth: 72 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 in the morning, then clearing. Clear. Sunny
Temperatures: high to 43 deg. F. low to 22 deg. F. high to 52 deg. F.
Wind Direction: W W W
Wind Speed: 5 - 20 5-15 5-15
Expected snowfall: 0 in. 0 in. 0 in.
For 11000 ft. to 13000 ft.
Monday Monday Night Tuesday
Weather: Patly cloudy, then clearing. Clear. Sunny.
Temperatures: high to 36 deg. F. low to 21 deg. F. high to 46 deg. F.
Wind Direction: NW W W
Wind Speed: 5-20 5-20 5-20
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.