THIS AVALANCHE ADVISORY EXPIRED ON March 22, 2017 @ 5:57 am
Avalanche Advisory published on March 21, 2017 @ 5:57 am
Issued by Graham Turnage - Taos Avalanche Center

The avalanche danger is rated LOW on all slopes this morning, but will quickly rise to MODERATE by midday as warm temps and direct sun enable the possibility of loose wet and wet slab avalanches.  Carefully monitor surface snow warming, and avoid any slopes showing signs like snowballing and pinwheeling.  The window of good, supportive corn is a short one, so get out there early and make your exit before the snowpack loses its structure.

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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Warm temps and direct, high angle sun will make loose wet avalanches a very real possibility today.  Overnight lows have not given the snowpack a solid freeze the last 5 nights, and the superficial surface crust will break down by mid morning.  Pinwheels and roller balls are clear signs that the snowpack is saturated, and ski and board penetration will increase rapidly as liquid water begins to penetrate deeper into the snowpack.  Remember that even a small loose wet slide has an enormous amount of mass, and can ruin your day in a hurry.

Avalanche Problem 2: Wet Slab
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A general warming of the snowpack is occuring at all elevations this week, and will continue the next couple of days.  As liquid water penetrates deeper into the snowpack, the possibility of wet slab avalanches increases as daytime temps and strong solar input leave their mark.  Areas that contain buried crusts and weak layers are highly suspect, as these layers provide a pooling surface for liquid water, undercutting the snowpack above.  Smaller loose wet slides may be enough of a trigger to step down and cause dangerous wet slab avalanches.  Once again, when you see the surface snow saturated and slushy deeper than a couple of inches it's time to leave the ring and retreat to cooler zones (or dry bike trails).

advisory discussion

The snowpack thinks it's spring, and it is right for now.  Surface melting in the morning sun elevates the avalanche danger to MODERATE by midday, and human triggered loose wet and wet slab avalanches are possible again today.  As liquid water penetrates the snowpack it undermines any remaining structure.  The result is a snow surface that is unsupportive to a skier or rider, and one that is suspect of producing avalanches.  The spring corn cycle is good in the morning, but the window is short, and by 10:30 or 11am it is time to find colder slopes or call it a day.  Obvious signs of rising wet avalanche danger include rollerballs and pinwheels, as well as increased ski and boot penetration.

Loose wet avalanches can start small and easily entrain enough mass to step down and trigger larger, more dangerous wet slabs (see recent obs below).  These slabs are hard to predict and pack a destructive punch.  Enjoy the morning corn, but if you get out in the backcountry, carefully monitor the warming of the snow surface and adjust your travel plans accordingly.  Forecasts are calling for a return of winter weather later in the week and next week, which should change the avalanche conditions drastically - stay tuned!  

I will issue the next advisory on Wednesday, and if you get out into the backcountry, please share any observations with us at toasavalanchecenter@gmail.com or on the "submit observations" tab at the top of the homepage - and Thank You!

A message from your forecasters:

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!

 

 

recent observations

Monday brought yet another warm, sunny day, and more melting snow.  We toured around the Williams Lake drainage to find good mid-morning corn, which deteriorated quickly - see video from 11am.  Shady areas were holding dry snow just below the surface, but as the sun angle increases by the day, these areas are getting scarse.  Snowpits revealed a great deal of spatial variability, mostly aspect dependent.  We are still finding buried faceted crusts (see pic below), which may provide pooling opportunities for free water as it penetrates down - an unstable situation.

This weekend was downright hot for March in the mountains!  On an east aspect above treeline we were sinking in to our knees at 10 AM.  Things warmed up quickly and there were reports of small natural loose wet avalanches.  There was also a report of a human triggered loose wet avalanche the stepped down 3' on a NE aspect near treeline (see pic below). The last few days have felt the warmest of this slew of spring days, with our high sun angle impacting most slopes except for true north aspects above treeline. We're finding water penetrating deeper into our snowpack with each passing day.  Cold snow can still be found in many areas of our snowpack near and above treeline.    

pic; Andy investigating debris from a human triggered wet slab from Sat.  ENE aspect.

 

pic below: "gutless" wet snow near rocks - crashing through by 10am

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.  At higher elevations where we have several crusts the water pools and eventually makes it through on the path of least resistance.

 

 

Weather and CURRENT CONDITIONS
weather summary

Spring is here - for now.  Today should be another warm, sunny day with mountain temps in the 40s and 50s with light SW winds.  Overnight lows only dip to near freezing, with a repeat of today forecast for Wednesday.  Perfect weather for a morning corn run followed by an afternoon bike ride or river session.  Changes in weather should arrive Thursday and Friday, with cooler temps and the chance for some precip.

Weather observations from the Wheeler Peak Wilderness between 9000 ft. and 13000 ft.
0600 temperature: 33.6 deg. F.
Max. temperature in the last 24 hours: 46.5 deg. F.
Average wind direction during the last 24 hours: WSW
Average wind speed during the last 24 hours: 14 mph
Maximum wind gust in the last 24 hours: 33 mph
New snowfall in the last 24 hours: 0 inches
Total snow depth: 77.1 inches
Two-Day Mountain Weather Forecast Produced in partnership with the Albuquerque NWS
For 9000 ft. to 10000 ft.
Tuesday Tuesday Night Wednesday
Weather: Mostly Sunny Partly Cloudy Partly cloudy
Temperatures: high to 55 deg. F. low to 33 deg. F. high to 54 deg. F.
Wind Direction: SW SW SW
Wind Speed: 5-15 5-15 5-15
Expected snowfall: 0 in. 0 in. 0 in.
For 11000 ft. to 13000 ft.
Tuesday Tuesday Night Wednesday
Weather: Mostly Sunny Partly Cloudy Partly cloudy.
Temperatures: high 46 deg. F. low to 32 deg. F. high 47 deg. F.
Wind Direction: SW SW SW
Wind Speed: 5-15 5-15 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.