THIS AVALANCHE ADVISORY EXPIRED ON March 14, 2017 @ 5:40 am
Avalanche Advisory published on March 13, 2017 @ 5:40 am
Issued by Andy Bond - Taos Avalanche Center

LOW avalanche danger exists at all elevations. Isolated areas of instability may exist. Evaluate the terrain and snowpack while traveling in the backcountry to identify where these isolated areas of unstable snow may exist.  Wet loose avalanche activity could occur today with warm afternoon temps and our strong spring sun.

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: Persistent Slab
  • Type ?
  • Aspect/Elevation ?
  • Likelihood ?
    Certain
    Very Likely
    Likely
    Possible
    Unlikely
  • Size ?
    Historic
    Very Large
    Large
    Small

With each warm day it is slowly healing our buried faceted weak layer. These facets are rounding and gaining stength on most slopes as stability tests are showing these weak layers are no longer propagating. The persistent slab problem has trended to unlikely.  Continue to dig and assess the terrain you plan to play on. Although avalanche danger is LOW, you can still trigger an avalanche on isolated slopes.  Northwest through East slopes above treeline are where you are most likely to encounter this facet (weak layer) /slab combination.   

advisory discussion

Avalanche danger has dropped to LOW at all elevations.  Weak layers are still there on Northwest through East aspects, however most snowpack tests are showing that these weak layers are healing with the recent warm temperatures.  You can still find slopes where these layers are still suspect (See Observations).  Continue to dig and assess the slopes you plan to get on, even a small avalanche could be catastrophic in high consequence terrain.

LOW avalanche danger does not mean no avalanche danger.  Use good backcountry protocol; moving through avalanche terrain quickly, traveling one at a time on suspect slopes and regrouping in areas away from avalanche runnouts. Be aware of slopes with large overhanging cornices, areas with terrain traps and high consequence terrain like hanging snowfields. 

Spring is here, and with the potential of near record breaking temperatures for the rest of the week, wet snow avalanches will be concern.  Steep sunny slopes in the afternoon should be avoided.  We had a good freeze last night, which should've locked up the snowpack.  If you are seeking spring "corn" it's better to be early and have to wait than be late. Pay attention to the changing snow surface with rapidly rising temperatures and our strong New Mexican sun.  This problem is easy to avoid, if you start to pentetrate more than the top few inches in wet snow head to a shadier aspect or head home and enjoy the extended evening daylight hours.

 

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

Snowpack tests are starting to confirm that the warm temperatures are healing our weak layers.  We were able to get a bunch of pits dug on Sunday in the alpine on varying aspects.  Most of these stability tests were not producing any significant results.  With that being said we were able to find weak layers on North aspects that were still propagating.  This was us mostly seeking suspect spots.  Although triggering an avalanche right now would be difficult, there are still slopes that haven't fully healed from the warm the temperatures. North aspects seem to be the most suspect.  

The snow surface right now is real mixed bag, with bullet proof hard slabs, breakable crusts, and areas that have been scoured and are showing inverted tracks from two months ago. Melt-freeze crusts have made its way all the way to mid elevations, and finding softer snow on north facing slopes in the trees is difficult right now.  

Pic; North aspect around 12,200' on Vallecito where the warm temperatures are still slowly healing the weak layer. This was not the norm in snowpack tests but serves as a reminder that some slopes are still catching up with the healing process.

Pic; Pencil hard wind slab, This pit on a NE aspect around 12,600' we were unable to get the weak layer to propogate.

Weather and CURRENT CONDITIONS
weather summary

A ridge of high pressure centered in California will slowly move to the east bringing with it near record temperatures through the rest of the week.  Temps should be slightly warmer than yesterday reaching the mid 50's at 9000'.  Winds should back off today (5-15 MPH) out the west. Models remain in good agreement for Saturday that there should be a pattern shift bringing a more active pattern to the Southwest. But time will tell and until then bring lots of sunscreen and enjoy the flip flop weather. 

Weather observations from the Wheeler Peak Wilderness between 9000 ft. and 13000 ft.
0600 temperature: 24.1 deg. F.
Max. temperature in the last 24 hours: 35 deg. F.
Average wind direction during the last 24 hours: WNW
Average wind speed during the last 24 hours: 16 mph
Maximum wind gust in the last 24 hours: 43 mph
New snowfall in the last 24 hours: 0 inches
Total snow depth: 83.1 inches
Two-Day Mountain Weather Forecast Produced in partnership with the Albuquerque NWS
For 9000 ft. to 10000 ft.
Monday Monday Night Tuesday
Weather: Mostly Sunny Mostly Clear Mostly Sunny
Temperatures: high to 56 deg. F. low to 31 deg. F. high to 64 deg. F.
Wind Direction: W W W
Wind Speed: 5-15 5-20 5-15
Expected snowfall: 0 in. 0 in. 0 in.
For 11000 ft. to 13000 ft.
Monday Monday Night Tuesday
Weather: Mostly Sunny Mostly Clear Mostly Sunny
Temperatures: high to 43 deg. F. low to 26 deg. F. high to 50 deg. F.
Wind Direction: W NW NW
Wind Speed: 5-15 5-20 5-15
Expected snowfall: 0 in. 0 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.