Avalanche Advisory published on March 17, 2017 @ 5:46 am
Issued by Andy Bond - Taos Avalanche Center

The avalanche danger will quickly rise to MODERATE at all elevations today as loose wet avalanches become possible. Above freezing temperatures overnight and another day of warm temperatures and intense spring sun will impact slopes early today.   Evaluate snow and terrain carefully and move to slopes with colder snow once signs of loose wet avalanches like rollerballs, pinwheels or sinking in above your boot start to occur. 

2. Moderate


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

2. Moderate


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

2. Moderate


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
  • Type ?
  • Aspect/Elevation ?
  • Likelihood ?
    Very Likely
  • Size ?
    Very Large

Loose wet avalanches will become possible again today at all elevations with continued warm temperatures and the strong spring sun.  Temperatures last night did not get below freezing at all elevations. Clear skies overnight in spots could've put a superficial refreeze on the snow surface but warm temps and sun should quickly melt through this thin layer. Loose wet snow avalanches has the potential to be more widespread and larger today than yesterday, with winds diminishing and temperatures forecasted to be warmer. Forecasted high clouds today could be enough to block the direct sun, limiting some of the loose wet activity like it did yesterday.

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. Start early and head home early as the "window" for good skiing or riding could be a small one today.

advisory discussion

With the weather stations back on line, it's easier to get a better idea of what temperatures were doing.  Yesterday we did get below freezing in the morning hours.  Cloud cover and a moderate breeze kept upper elevations cool until about noon, when the clouds moved to the east and the sun was able to start warming the slopes.  Winds have calmed down in the evening hours and temperatures this morning are all above freezing from 9000' to 12,400'. Looking out the window this morning, we do have high clouds over the mountains, that has the potential to limit the direct sun. If you were out yesterday there was big difference in temperatures between the morning with cloud cover and the afternoon when the sun wasn't blocked by the high clouds.


The heat wave looks to continue through early next week.  Temperatures remained above freezing overnight from 9,000' to 12,000' last night.  Human triggered wet snow avalanches will be possible today at all elevations.  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. Avoid steep exposed terrain in areas above cliffs or gullies.

Some wet slab avalanches (See Video from Wednesday) are possible today. 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. A lot depends on how the liquid water moves through the snowpack which is different from slope to slope. We also have a shallow snowpack in spots 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 a superficial refreeze of the snow surface. This will be something to be aware of as these warm temperatures and continued hours above freezing persist.


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 or

With high pressure continuing, 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 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

Thursday got off to a slow start with temperatures taking there time to warm up.  We did get a refreeze in the early hours of Thursday morning. Clouds and a moderate breeze at ridgetops kept things locked up until mid morning hours. At lower elevations temperatures rose pretty quickly.  Boot penetration in a lot of spots near and below treeline is a lot greater than our ski penetration. Below treeline, we have a very weak structured snowpack right now, without any form of crusts. Water in the snowpack has been able to move pretty quickly straight to the ground.  Many slopes near and above treeline have varying forms of crusts, where we are starting to observe some percolation coulumns as the water in the upper portions of the snowpack is finding the path of least resistance as it travels downwards.  In shallower areas below treeline we are penetrating all the way to the ground.  Starting to observe more roller balls and pinwheels as the hours above freezing start adding up.

Pic; looking at how the water is moving in the snowpack on N aspect below treeline. This was done in the morning, you can see the crust 10 cm down where the cold coffee has traveled downhill on the sidewall. 

Pic; Rollerball on a NW aspect below treeline

Pic; ski penetration vs boot penetration on an east aspect

Pic; Wet facets on the ground from an east aspect down 163cm

weather summary

Warm temperatures will remain with us through early next week.  Temperatures today are forecasted in the mid 60's at 9000' and the high 40's over 12,000'.  Winds should be light (5 - 10 MPH) out of the NW today.  We should see some high clouds today with models showing some mid level moisture over the northern mountains.  Potential of some virga this afternoon with the potential of sprinkles reaching the ground. 



Weather observations from the Wheeler Peak Wilderness between 9000 ft. and 13000 ft.
0600 temperature: 34.6 deg. F.
Max. temperature in the last 24 hours: 42.7 deg. F.
Average wind direction during the last 24 hours: W
Average wind speed during the last 24 hours: 14 mph
Maximum wind gust in the last 24 hours: 40 mph
New snowfall in the last 24 hours: 0 inches
Total snow depth: 80.2 inches
Two-Day Mountain Weather Forecast Produced in partnership with the Albuquerque NWS
For 9000 ft. to 10000 ft.
Friday Friday Night Saturday
Weather: Partly Cloudy Mostly Clear Mostly Sunny, then becoming partly cloudy
Temperatures: 63 - 69 deg. F. low to 31 deg. F. 65 - 71 deg. F.
Wind Direction: NW SW SW
Wind Speed: 5-10 5-10 5-15
Expected snowfall: 0 in. 0 in. 0 in.
For 11000 ft. to 13000 ft.
Friday Friday Night Saturday
Weather: Partly Cloudy Mostly clear Mostly Sunny in the morning then becoming partly cloudy
Temperatures: 44 - 52 deg. F. low to 28 deg. F. 46 - 54 deg. F.
Wind Direction: NW SW SW
Wind Speed: 5-10 5-10 5-15
Expected snowfall: 0 in. 0 in. 0 in.

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.