THIS AVALANCHE ADVISORY EXPIRED ON February 27, 2017 @ 5:30 am
Avalanche Advisory published on February 26, 2017 @ 5:30 am
Issued by Andy Bond - Taos Avalanche Center

LOW avalanche danger continues today at all elevations. Isolated areas of instability may exist. Small avalanches could still occur in isolated or extreme terrain. Use normal caution while traveling in the backcountry by using good travel techniques when traveling in or below avalanche 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: Normal Caution
  • Type ?
  • Aspect/Elevation ?
  • Likelihood ?
    Certain
    Very Likely
    Likely
    Possible
    Unlikely
  • Size ?
    Historic
    Very Large
    Large
    Small

While triggering an avalanche today remains unlikely, some unstable snow may exist on isolated terrain features, especially wind loaded areas above treeline in steep complex terrain. The forecast of up to an inch of snow shouldn't change the avalanche danger today. As always continually assess the snowpack, terrain and changing weather conditions to identify where isolated areas of instability may linger.

Today will mark a return to winter like conditions that looks to stay with us through Tuesday!  With that in mind, continue best practice travel techniques for travel in or below avalanche terrain. This includes exposing only one person at a time to steep slopes and not grouping up in low angle avalanche runout areas that are connected to steeper terrain above. Avoid traveling near cornice edges or stopping below cornice features as large sections of cornice collapse can occur.

advisory discussion

Nothing has changed in the last 24 hours with the continued theme of cold temps and strong west winds.  Today we might add a little bit of snow flurries into the mix.  The snow forecasted for today (0 to 1") doesn't look to be enough to change the overall avalanche conditions. If the weather changes and we get more snow than expected, strong west winds could produce wind slabs.  Continually monitor the changing conditions, assessing the slopes and terrain you plan to get on.     

The warm, wet spring-like snowpack from earlier in the week is locked up from the very cold temperatures the last several days.  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.  This recent weather pattern has provided for generally safe avalanche conditions, but avalanches are not impossible in isolated terrain features and extreme terrain.

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 (Tuesday?)!  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

Winter has returned to the mountains of Northern New Mexico - finally!  Although most mountain locations only picked up an inch or so of snow on Thursday, models are calling for cold and snowy conditions starting Sunday, with the best chance for snow Monday night through Tuesday.  Warm temps earlier in the week penetrated deep into the snowpack, helping to heal the buried weak layers and basal facets.  The return of cold air to the scenario has locked things up at all elevations the last 72 hours, making for less than desirable skiing!  

The big story from Thursday, Friday and Saturday was wind - strong wind and the return of bitterly cold temps (It didn't get above 0°F above 12,000' on Friday).  Gusts in the 50s and sustained WSW winds in the 20 to 30 mph range were the story from the last 72 hours.  Our snow surface took a beating from this strong wind and has formed breakable to bullet proof hard crusts. Mid and lower elevations have a 4 to 6" melt-freeze crust except for northerly aspects that are still holding on to some "recycled" powder in wind protected areas.  Check out Graham's Video from Friday talking about the winds and the potential storm Sunday - Tuesday.  

Although not avalanche related a recent accident on the South Teton serves as reminder that we do have hard slick conditions out there. Stay safe out there today as the skiing might be the biggest challenge!

Pic: Temp and Wind Charts from the last 72 Hours

Pic: Buried NS Facets that might become a problem if buried by storm.

Pic: Melt-Freeze crust on a East aspect below treeline w/ facets below the crust.

Pic: Wind swept and refrozen hard surface above treeline from Friday.  New Snow Sunday-Tuesday will fall on some very firm surfaces above treeline 

Weather and CURRENT CONDITIONS
weather summary

A quick moving upper level trough will pass through our area today bringing with it west wind and some snow flurries. Temperatures look to warm slightly on Monday with lingering snow showers before another more potent upper level pacific trough looks to move in Monday night through Tuesday, bringing with it a better chance of precip and strong SW winds.  Temps look to remain cold enough for snow at all elevations during this strom. Models are agreeing so far so we'll keep our fingers crossed!

Weather observations from the Wheeler Peak Wilderness between 9000 ft. and 13000 ft.
0600 temperature: 4.1 deg. F.
Max. temperature in the last 24 hours: 12.5 deg. F.
Average wind direction during the last 24 hours: W
Average wind speed during the last 24 hours: 24 mph
Maximum wind gust in the last 24 hours: 57 mph
New snowfall in the last 24 hours: 0 inches
Total snow depth: 70.6 inches
Two-Day Mountain Weather Forecast Produced in partnership with the Albuquerque NWS
For 9000 ft. to 10000 ft.
Sunday Sunday Night Monday
Weather: Mostly Cloudy in the morning then becoming partly cloudy with isolated snow showers Partly cloudy with isolated snow showers Partly Cloudy with isolated snow showers
Temperatures: high to 31 deg. F. low to 19 deg. F. high to 34 deg. F.
Wind Direction: W W SW
Wind Speed: 5-15 5-20 10-30
Expected snowfall: 0.1 - 0.8 in. 0.1 - 0.7 in. 0.1 - 0.5 in.
For 11000 ft. to 13000 ft.
Sunday Sunday Night Monday
Weather: Mostly cloudy in the morning then becoming partly cloudy with isolated snow showers Partly cloudy with isolated snow showers Partly cloudy with scattered snow showers
Temperatures: high to 22 deg. F. low to 13 deg. F. high to 26 deg. F.
Wind Direction: W W SW
Wind Speed: 10-20 10-25 15-30
Expected snowfall: 0.1 - 1 in. 0.1 - 0.8 in. 0.2 - 0.5 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.