THIS AVALANCHE ADVISORY EXPIRED ON February 24, 2017 @ 5:53 am
Avalanche Advisory published on February 23, 2017 @ 5:53 am
Issued by Graham Turnage - Taos Avalanche Center

Generally safe avalanche conditions exist today at all elevations.  A chance for a few inches of snow and strong WSW winds will build small wind slabs on the leeward sides of ridges and gullies today and backcountry travelers should be suspect of the potential for avalanches on isolated terrain features.  Expect a rising avalanche hazard today if the forecast verifies and it snows more than an inch or two.

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
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  • Aspect/Elevation ?
  • Likelihood ?
    Certain
    Very Likely
    Likely
    Possible
    Unlikely
  • Size ?
    Historic
    Very Large
    Large
    Small
Avalanche Problem 2: Wind Slab
  • Type ?
  • Aspect/Elevation ?
  • Likelihood ?
    Certain
    Very Likely
    Likely
    Possible
    Unlikely
  • Size ?
    Historic
    Very Large
    Large
    Small

POTENTIAL PROBLEM; Weather models are showing the chance for 1-3" of snow today, and winds are howling with gusts in the 60mph range.  If the forecast verifies and we get a few inches of snow, these continued strong WSW winds will build small wind slabs today.  These slabs will be formed atop hard melt/freeze crusts from yesterday and may be touchy on isolated terrain features like ridges and gullies.  Swirling winds in the alpine may form wind slabs on all aspects, so evaluate each slope independently.

advisory discussion

The warm, wet spring-like snowpack from earlier in the week got a nice solid freeze last night, and should stay locked up today.  Warm temps penetrated deep into the snowpack this week, helping to heal the buried weak layers deep in the pack.  Buried layers of facets and depth hoar crystals on the ground are starting to round and strengthen, putting our persistent slab concerns mostly at ease....for now.  Cold temps have returned and look to persist through next week, so our snowpack will witness more changes as the cold returns to the pack.

An increase in avalanche hazard is expected today IF we get the 1-3" of snow that's in the forecast.  This won't present a hazard until it is transported by strong winds, forming wind slabs, mostly at mid to high elevations.  If the snow doesn't materialize, these winds have very little old snow available for transport, and avalanche conditions will not change in severity.  

Just a reminder; LOW danger does not mean NO danger.  Continue to practice safe travel habits, good communication with your partners, and be concious of changing conditions.  This will keep us all safe and ready to powder ski once it snows again!  Moving forward our avalanche concerns are up in the air at this point.  More snow will form storm slabs.  More wind will form wind slabs. And sunny days and cold, clear nights will produce faceted layers, prime conditions for creating more persistent slab issues.  Spring wet slides shouldn't be an issue for a while, with cold temps in the forecast for the next week or so.   

We have a fresh beacon practice problem out at TSV for the week of feb21-feb27 - check it out and keep your beacon skills sharp!

If you get into the backcountry, please drop us a line at Taosavalanchecenter@gmail.com 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.

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

It is Spring in the mountains this week.  We started the week with warm temps and sunny days, and have transitioned into a colder, winter-like weather pattern as of last night. We successfully avoided Wednesday's expected rain in most mountain locations, with a few graupel pellets reported around 4pm.  Winds have been strong since yesterday, as we return to normal February weather (if there is such a thing).

Digging on southerly aspects on Monday even above treeline we were finding wet snow all the way to ground.  This was capped by a hard crust from the solid freeze the night before.  Percolation columns where free water had penetrated down in the snowpack probably from 4 to 5 days was also observed.  North Facing trees were still holding pretty good "recycled" powder.  Things started corning up on southerly aspects around noon above treeline as winds and slightly cooler temps on Monday kept most things locked up.

We spent Tuesday back in the South Fork Drainage.  Rapid warming throughout the day especially when traveling on a south aspect in the middle of the day.  Surface winds were light out of the West. The south facing snowpack was wet to the ground  with snowpack temps ranging from -.5degreesC to -1.5degreesC.  That said, we were not able to get the surface snow moving at midday, but noted we would not have wanted to be on steep sunny slopes later in the afternoon, as the warming trend was very noticable.  We found dry snow and near surface facets on the North faces, and sloppy, post corn snow on the South faces after 1:30pm

Pic: South facing snowpit around 11,700' at 1:30PM in the afternoon.  The top 2 inches had corned up and we had wet snow to ground.

 

Pic:  Wet snow (you can make a snowball with it) at the bottom of the snowpack on a SE aspect at 12,400'

Pic: "Recycled" Powder below treeline in the trees on a North Aspect

Weather and CURRENT CONDITIONS
weather summary

An upper level low pressure system will pass just north of New Mexico today, steering the jet stream overhead with very strong southwest winds. Gusts will reach over 60 mph at times and temps look to be in the 20s and 30s today, dropping into the teens and single digits tonight. We may see 1-3" of snow today, but snow showers will be scattered and accumumlations will be tough to determine with sustained WSW winds in the 30s.

Weather observations from the Wheeler Peak Wilderness between 9000 ft. and 13000 ft.
0600 temperature: 19.4 deg. F.
Max. temperature in the last 24 hours: 31 deg. F.
Average wind direction during the last 24 hours: WSW
Average wind speed during the last 24 hours: 26 mph
Maximum wind gust in the last 24 hours: 62 mph
New snowfall in the last 24 hours: 0 inches
Total snow depth: 71 inches
Two-Day Mountain Weather Forecast Produced in partnership with the Albuquerque NWS
For 9000 ft. to 10000 ft.
Thursday Thursday Night Friday
Weather: Partly cloudy. Scattered snow showers and strong WSW winds. Clear and cold. Partly Cloudy and breezy.
Temperatures: high to 35 deg. F. low to 13 deg. F. high to 28 deg. F.
Wind Direction: WSW W W
Wind Speed: 25-35 10-30 10-20
Expected snowfall: .5-2.6 in. 0 in. 0 in.
For 11000 ft. to 13000 ft.
Thursday Thursday Night Friday
Weather: Partly cloudy with scattered snow showers and strong WSW winds. Clear and cold. Partly Cloudy with isolated snow flurries.
Temperatures: high to 27 deg. F. low to 5 deg. F. high to 17 deg. F.
Wind Direction: W W W
Wind Speed: 25-35 15-35 15-25
Expected snowfall: .5-3 in. 0 in. .1-.5 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.