THIS AVALANCHE ADVISORY EXPIRED ON March 19, 2017 @ 5:26 am
Avalanche Advisory published on March 18, 2017 @ 5:26 am
Issued by Andy Bond - Taos Avalanche Center

LOW avalanche danger exists this morning for a brief period of time.  The avalanche danger will rise to MODERATE as loose wet and wet slab avalanches become possible with day time warming and intense sun. Start early and end your day early. 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

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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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Loose wet avalanches will become possible again today at all elevations with continued warm temperatures and the strong spring sun.  We've had two nights with above freezing temperatures and hours above freezing are starting to add up. 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.  We should be off the races again today where we've seen temperatures rise 20° in 4 hours!

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 again today.

Avalanche Problem 2: Wet Slab
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We are adding the wet slab avalanche problem today. Two nights with above freezing temperatures is enough to be concerned about this possibility.  Wet slab avalanches can be dangerous and are hard to forecast for.  A smaller wet loose avalanche could be enough weight to step down and trigger a bigger wet avalanche. Areas to be aware of for wet slab avalanches are steep, rocky and sunny slopes.   

advisory discussion

Temperatures just barely got freezing last night at all elevations.  Friday was HOT, an absolute scorcher of a day with snow softening up even in alpine in the early morning hours. Today should be like Friday, with another hot and sunny day in store.  The warming process will be like clock work as the sun moves throughout the day, starting with east facing slopes than south and finishing with west aspects.  Light to moderate SW winds today could slow the warming above treeline today, but all elevations should see wet snow.

This heat wave looks to continue through early next week.  Human triggered wet snow avalanches will again be possible today at all elevations. It's best to get an early start and get off the sunny slopes by early afternoon.  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. Boot penetration is great way to assess if the slope is suspect.  If you can penetrate deeper than your boot top it's a good idea to find colder snow.  Look for pinwheels and rollerballs or natural wet loose sluffs. If you encounter these conditions head to a shadier aspect or head home. Avoid steep exposed terrain in areas above cliffs or gullies. We're still transitioning from a cold winter like snowpack to what we're accustomed to come April.  

Wet slab avalanches are possible today (See Video about Wet Slab). 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 colder 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. A smaller wet loose avalanche has the potential to be enough weight to step down onto a lower crust or even collpase down to wet facets in a shallower snowpack.  These are hard to forecast and usually need a couple of nights of no refreeze or just a superficial refreeze of the snow surface which we are currently at.

 

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 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 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 HOT...  Even at 9:30AM!  We did not get a refreeze on Friday as temperatures remained above freezing at 11,000'.  There was a superficial refreeze of the surface but that was quickly melted by the sun.  Upper elevations still have cold snow down in the snowpack, even on southerly aspects.  Most slopes were getting sloppy by 1:30PM as I was making my exit.  North aspects above treeline have near surface faceting on the surface.  The snow surface quickly changes once you get off a North aspect from cold snow to wet sloppy snow.  The snow is going quickly with these warm temperatures.  Our snowpack is going isothermic below treeline, where we are able to pentetrate all the way to the ground.  

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; SE Aspect around 12,000' from Friday.  Cold snow was found 25cm down from the snow surface.  Lot's of crusts where water can pool. Notice how it travels downhill on these crusts. Comparing the two photos below, notice that below treeline, the water is able to freely move all the way to the ground.  At higher elevations where we have several crusts the water pools and eventually makes it through on the path of least resistance.

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; ski penetration vs boot penetration on an east aspect

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

Weather and CURRENT CONDITIONS
weather summary

A ridge of high pressure is back over New Mexico, bringing with it record high temperatures for this time of year.  Temperatures today could again aproach the 60's at lower elevations and the 50's above 11,000'.  Winds will shift to the SW today (5-15 MPH).  Plenty of sunshine in the morning before clouds start to move in for the afternoon. Bring lots of suncreen as today will be another scorcher! 

 

 

Weather observations from the Wheeler Peak Wilderness between 9000 ft. and 13000 ft.
0600 temperature: 32.6 deg. F.
Max. temperature in the last 24 hours: 44.1 deg. F.
Average wind direction during the last 24 hours: SW
Average wind speed during the last 24 hours: 8 mph
Maximum wind gust in the last 24 hours: 33 mph
New snowfall in the last 24 hours: 0 inches
Total snow depth: 79.3 inches
Two-Day Mountain Weather Forecast Produced in partnership with the Albuquerque NWS
For 9000 ft. to 10000 ft.
Saturday Saturday Night Sunday
Weather: Mostly Sunny in the morning then becoming partly cloudy in the afternoon Mostly Clear Partly Cloudy
Temperatures: 64 - 70 deg. F. low to 32 deg. F. 64 - 69 deg. F.
Wind Direction: SW SW W
Wind Speed: 5-15 5-15 5-20
Expected snowfall: 0 in. 0 in. 0 in.
For 11000 ft. to 13000 ft.
Saturday Saturday Night Sunday
Weather: Mostly sunny in the morning then becoming partly cloudy Mostly Clear Partly Cloudy
Temperatures: 44 - 53 deg. F. low to 30 deg. F. 45 - 52 deg. F.
Wind Direction: SW W W
Wind Speed: 5-15 10-15 10-20
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.