THIS AVALANCHE ADVISORY EXPIRED ON March 16, 2017 @ 5:45 am
Avalanche Advisory published on March 15, 2017 @ 5:45 am
Issued by Andy Bond - Taos Avalanche Center

LOW avalanche danger will exist this morning.  As day time warming occurs and direct sunlight penetrates slopes, avalanche danger will quickly rise to MODERATE at all elevations due to loose wet snow avalanches.   Evaluate snow and terrain carefully and move to slopes with colder snow once signs of loose wet avalanches like rollerballs, or sinking in above your boot tops start to occur. 

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.

2. Moderate

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Below Treeline
Heightened avalanche conditions on specific terrain features. Evaluate snow and terrain carefully; identify features of concern.
    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: Loose Wet
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Today's continued warm temperatures and strong spring sun will increase the avalanche danger for loose wet avalanches near and below treeline.  This will be like clock work as the sun moves from the east to the south and finishes on the west facing slopes.  Timing is everything to catch that "window" for soft or "corn" like snow.  If you arrive to late you expose yourself to the risk of wet snow avalanches.  If you're in unsupportable wet snow, or seeing rollerballs or natural wet loose sluffs, it's time to head to a shadier aspect or head home.

We might be heading towards wet slab avalanches in the days to come, with continued warming and superficial refreezes at night.  These avalanches are hard to forecast for and typically start to become a concern when we are getting prolonged periods above freezing.  

Avalanche Problem 2: Persistent Slab
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Although, the persistent slab problem has trended to unlikely, we still have cold snow on northwest through northeast aspects above treeline where there is still a concern of facet (weak layer) / slab combination.  Continue to dig and assess the terrain you plan to play on as every slope is going to be different.

advisory discussion

Spring is here, and with the potential of near record breaking temperatures for the rest of the week, wet snow avalanches will be a concern.  Weather stations went down at 2 AM this morning but temperatures remained right at freezing for most of the night.  Human triggered wet snow avalanches will be possible today at all elevations. Winds will back off today and should allow warming to occur above treeline on the southerly aspects. Steep sunny slopes in the afternoon should be avoided.   If you are seeking spring "corn" it's better to be early and have to wait than be late and risk yourself to the potential of a wet snow avalanche. Pay attention to the changing snow surface with rapidly rising temperatures and our strong New Mexican sun. Avoid slopes with about 6 inches of wet sloppy snow.  Look for pinwheels and rollerballs or natural wet loose sluffs. If you encounter these conditions head to a shadier aspect or head home and enjoy the extended evening daylight hours. These smaller avalanches shouldn't be much of a concern unless you are in steep exposed terrain in areas above cliffs or gullies.

At some point in the coming days, we might deal with wet slab avalanches (See Video from Tuesday). This is a much bigger concern than wet loose avalanches.  As warm temperatures and direct sun impact the upper layers of the snowpack, water will start percolating and penetrating down into the snowpack.  When this water hits a crust or some form of structure in the snowpack, the upper wet snow can act like a slab. We also have a shallow snowpack in spots (see photo in observations) where a smaller wet snow avalanche in the upper layers could have enough weight to collapse and step down to those wet facets.  These are hard to forecast and usually need a couple of nights of no refreeze or just superficial refreeze of the snow surface. This will be something to monitor as these warm temperatures continue to persist.

Although triggering a persistent slab avalanche has become unlikely, we still have a faceted weak layer buried in our snowpack.  Weak layers are still there on northwest through northeast 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 from South Fork Drainage).  Continue to dig and assess the slopes you plan to get on, even a small avalanche could be catastrophic in high consequence terrain.

 

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

Tuesday started off slow with the warming temperatures, as clouds lingered through the morning. Once the sun wasn't blocked temperatures and the direct sun really started to warm up the snowpack.  Temperatures at all elevations reached above freezing on Tuesday in the afternoon hours. We were able to find wet facets in many spots near and below treeline.  The snowpack at lower elevations on east to south to west aspects is starting to go isothermic with little to no variation in temperature from the top to the bottom of the snowpack.  In many places boot penetration was all the way to ground. With no new snow in a while, most of these surfaces have a melt-freeze crust that breaks down and becomes wet snow.  We are not seeing widespread natural wet loose snow avalanches like we would right after a storm when the sun comes out. In traveling around on Tuesday, most of these slopes need you as a skier or rider to get the top snow surface to start moving.      

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.    

Pic; quick pit on an East aspect around 11,000' at 3PM on Tuesday.  Boot penetration was to the ground but ski penetration was only the top 10 to 15 cm.  This was still supportable and wasn't able to get it to collapse with the weight of a skier.

Pic; the top few inches of snow softening up on an E aspect on Monday. 

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.

Weather and CURRENT CONDITIONS
weather summary

A ridge of high pressure sitting over New Mexico today will slowly move east tonight and Thursday.  There will be plenty of bright sunshine and near record warm temperatures today with daytime highs reaching the low 60's.  Winds will be light today out of the west.  Weather stations went down at 2 AM this morning, but temperatures were just starting to get below freezing.  Tonight should be another warm night with temperatures just barely getting to freezing. 

Two-Day Mountain Weather Forecast Produced in partnership with the Albuquerque NWS
For 9000 ft. to 10000 ft.
Wednesday Wednesday Night Thursday
Weather: Mostly Sunny Mostly Clear Mostly Sunny
Temperatures: high to 64 deg. F. low to 32 deg. F. high to 61 deg. F.
Wind Direction: W W W
Wind Speed: 5-10 5-15 5-15
Expected snowfall: 0 in. 0 in. 0 in.
For 11000 ft. to 13000 ft.
Wednesday Wednesday Night Thursday
Weather: Mostly Sunny Mostly Clear Partly Cloudy
Temperatures: high to 50 deg. F. low to 26 deg. F. high to 48 deg. F.
Wind Direction: W W W
Wind Speed: 5-10 5-15 10-15
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.