THIS AVALANCHE ADVISORY EXPIRED ON March 12, 2017 @ 6:22 am
Avalanche Advisory published on March 11, 2017 @ 5:22 am
Issued by Andy Bond - Taos Avalanche Center

MODERATE avalanche danger exists near and above treeline, while LOW danger exists below treeline.  Human triggered persistent slab avalanches remain possible today. A buried layer of facets in the top few feet of the snowpack continues to be a concern.  Avalanche danger will rise at lower elevations this afternoon, as loose wet avalanches become possible during the midday heat.

2. Moderate

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Above Treeline
Heightened avalanche conditions on specific terrain features. Evaluate snow and terrain carefully; identify features of concern.

2. Moderate

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Near Treeline
Heightened avalanche conditions on specific terrain features. Evaluate snow and terrain carefully; identify features of concern.

1. Low

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Below Treeline
Generally safe avalanche conditions. Watch for unstable snow on isolated terrain features.
    Heightened avalanche conditions on specific terrain features. Evaluate snow and terrain carefully; identify features of concern.
  • 1. Low
  • 2. Moderate
  • 3. Considerable
  • 4. High
  • 5. Extreme
Avalanche Problem 1: Persistent Slab
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    Certain
    Very Likely
    Likely
    Possible
    Unlikely
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    Very Large
    Large
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With more and more time passing since our last storm, it is becoming more difficult to trigger an avalanche. Many areas near and above treeline on North through East aspects have a 2 to 4 foot cohesive slab resting on a layer of weak, sugary facets and/ or a crust/ facet combo.  The recent warm temperatures are helping to heal these persistent weak layers, but stability tests continue to indicate that these weak layers are still willing to propagate.  While triggering an avalanche will be difficult, if you find that "sweet" spot on the wrong slope you could trigger a large and destructive avalanche.  Suspect areas include thin, rocky spots where the weak layer is closer to the surface.

Avalanche Problem 2: Loose Wet
  • Type ?
  • Aspect/Elevation ?
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    Certain
    Very Likely
    Likely
    Possible
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    Historic
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Today will bring warm temps and the dreaded possibility of rain to lower elevations.  Temps at 9000 ft are forecast in the 50s, and are already at 30degrees as of 5:30am, with a very soft refreeze overnight. This will bring the possibility of loose wet avalanches by lunchtime, as the snow surface warms in the midday heat.  Look for snowballing and pinwheeling, and avoid sunny slopes as ski and boot penetration increases and you start to sink into the slush.  Rocky areas will be the most suspect, and even a small wet loose slide can pack a punch and has the potential to step down into deeper weak layers, creating larger avalanches.

advisory discussion

Strong winds have decimated our snowpack in spots especially on west and southwest slopes. Areas that weren't completely scoured have hard firm surfaces that thankfully have been softening up with the recent warm temps.  Although it feels like spring, we still have cold snow in our snowpack.  In many areas we have  layer of small grained facets that is now buried by a 2 to 4 foot slab. On solar aspects this weak layer of facets is associated with a crust, with faceting above and below. Shadier aspects it is just small grained facets. Recent warm temperatures are helping to heal these facets, but stability tests continue to indicate that you can initiate collapse and propagation of this weak layer.  While the chances of triggering this slab will be difficult, it is certainly possible, especially in likely trigger points like shallow, rocky areas where the weight of a skier or rider is more likely to collapse the weak layer.  

Careful evaluate the zone you plan to play in.  Dig down to see if you have a reactive layer of facets under a slab, and adjust your terrain choices accordingly.   

MODERATE avalanche danger remains above and near treeline today, while below treeline areas have a LOW danger.  Afternoon warming and the possibility of rain could raise the avalanche danger in the form of loose wet slides, as the snow surface turns to slush on all but the shadiest slopes or rain is introduced to the snowpack at lower elevations.  Obvious signs like snowballing and pinwheeling tell us it's time to find shadier slopes once the midday heat sets in.  A small loose wet slide may be enough of a trigger to step down into deeper weak layers, producing larger, more destructive avalanches.

Many of you have been asking and we are going to be teaching a Level 1 avalanche class Friday March 31st - Sunday April 2nd.  For more information please email Andy or Graham at andy@taosavalanchecenter.org or graham@taosavalanchecenter.org

With this week of high pressure, it's great time to practice your avalanche beacon skills with our new weekly beacon practice problem at TSV!

If you're interested in how much snow we've gotten this year check out our recent blog post.  This was written before this last storm, so add 25.5" of snow and 3.15" of SWE to the totals from February which should bring us right around average!

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

Friday was another warm and sunny day.   Things are locking up at night but are quick to heat up.  SE aspects were corn by about 10AM today.  Warm temperatures are really impacting our below treeline areas as well as our solar aspects even in the alpine.  Even though it feels like spring we are still finding cold snow 20 cm down.  Our persistent weak layers are starting to heal but still need a little more time before were out of the woods.  

Warm weather, strong sun, and light winds made Thursday a beautiful day.  Our snowpack notices changes in the weather like this, like the melting of surface layers and the potential healing of buried weak layers.  Observations from Thursday include limited loose wet slide activity, as one regular observer noted "the upper layer goes pretty easy with a push but didn't see any natural activity, though it was pretty punchy in the trees". 

Beautiful spring weather made for pleasant traveling the last few days and many folks got out into the backcountry.  Observations from ridgetops are consistent with those at lower elevations - a buried layer of facets 1-3 feet down is present in most places (video).  Many slopes also have a hard crust or two associated with this faected layer, providing a smooth sliding surface for the overlying persistent slab.  Stability tests results indicate this faceted layer is willing to propagate with a moderate amount of force.  A regular observer found this facet/crust combo on a SE aspect on Wednesday, and noted good corn skiing and the beginnings of wet loose activity in the afternoon. 

Pic; pit from Wed, N aspect at 11,600ft

Pic; Graham checking out the wind scoured ridgeline

 

Weather and CURRENT CONDITIONS
weather summary

Another warm day is on tap with the possibility of dreaded rain.  Temperatures should be slightly cooler than yesterday (Mid 40's to Mid 50's) but still well above freezing.  Winds will be light out of the north.  Clouds will build throughout the day with the possibility of light rain in the afternoon/evening at lower elevations and snow flurries at high elevations.

Weather observations from the Wheeler Peak Wilderness between 9000 ft. and 13000 ft.
0600 temperature: 29.4 deg. F.
Max. temperature in the last 24 hours: 41.4 deg. F.
Average wind direction during the last 24 hours: W
Average wind speed during the last 24 hours: 18 mph
Maximum wind gust in the last 24 hours: 39 mph
New snowfall in the last 24 hours: 0 inches
Total snow depth: 84.5 inches
Two-Day Mountain Weather Forecast Produced in partnership with the Albuquerque NWS
For 9000 ft. to 10000 ft.
Saturday Saturday Night Sunday
Weather: Partly cloudy in the morning, then mostly cloudy with a slight chance of rain showers Partly cloudy with slight chance of rain showers and snow showers in the evening Mostly sunny in the morning, then becoming partly cloudy
Temperatures: high to 53 deg. F. low to 26 deg. F. high to 54 deg. F.
Wind Direction: N E SW
Wind Speed: 0-10 5-15 5-15
Expected snowfall: 0.01-0.03 Rain in. 0.1-0.2 in. 0 in.
For 11000 ft. to 13000 ft.
Saturday Saturday Night Sunday
Weather: Partly cloudy in the morning, then mostly cloudy with a slight chance of rain showers and snow showers in the afternoon Partly cloudy with slight chance of snow showers in the evening Mostly sunny in the morning then becoming partly cloudy
Temperatures: high to 41 deg. F. low to 22 deg. F. high to 44 deg. F.
Wind Direction: NW SE W
Wind Speed: 5-15 5-15 10-25
Expected snowfall: 0.1-0.5 in. 0.1-0.2 in. 0 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.