THIS AVALANCHE ADVISORY EXPIRED ON March 25, 2017 @ 5:43 am
Avalanche Advisory published on March 24, 2017 @ 5:43 am
Issued by Andy Bond - Taos Avalanche Center

3. Considerable

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Above Treeline

3. Considerable

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Near Treeline

3. Considerable

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Below Treeline

CONSIDERABLE avalanche danger exists at all elevations today due to storm slab and persistent slab avalanches.  12 to 16 inches of snow overnight with moderate WSW winds have produced dangerous avalanche conditions.  Natural and human triggered avalanches are likely today. Cautious route finding and conservative decision making are essential today.  

  • Dangerous avalanche conditions. Careful snowpack evaluation, cautious route-finding and conservative decision-making essential.
Avalanche Problem 1: Storm Slab
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12 to 16 inches of snow fell overnight with around 1.6" of Snow Water Equivalent (SWE) and snow continues to fall as of 5:30AM. The snotel powderhorn site is reporting 21" of snow overnight. WSW winds were averaging in the high teens and able to transport the new snow into sensitive slabs. This new snow is falling on mostly rough to smooth melt-freeze surfaces.  We expect to see avalanches within this new snow today and recommend very conservative terrain choices. We already have reports of natural avalanches on steep slopes near treeline this morning.

Carefully evaluate the snowpack and terrain as you travel.  Signs of recent avalanches, "whumphingcollapses and shooting cracks are indications of an unstable snowpack.  If you observe any of these bulls-eye clues, adjust your travel to lower angle terrain. 

Avalanche Problem 2: Persistent Slab
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Even with a return to winter and colder temps there are some weak layers buried in the snowpack.  Our snowpack went through a major transition these last two weeks with warm temperatures producing weak wet snow and a weak structured snowpack near and below treeline in most spots. On Thursday temperatures were still well above freezing before we addedd over 1.5" of water weight to this already weak snowpack. As we transition back to winter this old snow will take time to adjust and recover.  This first storm added a tremendous amount of weight really quickly and might be too much for the old snowpack to handle. A smaller storm slab avalanche also has the possibility of stepping down into older layers or potentially to the ground in spots. 

These are challenging times as we transition back into a winter snowpack.  No need to rush into things as we let the snowpack adjust. 

advisory discussion

Finally a return to winter and change from the warm sunny weather we've been having. A series of three storms will be impacting our area as we return to a more active weather pattern this next week.  This first storm exceeded expectations and snow is going to continue to fall through the morning. Snow started falling around 4PM on Thursday as temperatures plummeted below freezing.  12 to 16 inches fell overnight with around 1.5" of Snow Water Equivalent (SWE).  Winds overnight were in the high teens to low twenties out of the WSW.  Expect storm slabs to build on ridgetops throughout the day with more snow and continued wind speeds strong enough to transport snow. Reports are already in this morning that there have been natural avalanches on steep slopes. Careful snowpack evaluation, cautious route finding, and conservative decision making are essential today. 

It was only yesterday that we were talking about wet snow avalanches and an isothermal snowpack in areas below treeline.  Although temperatures did drop well below freezing at all elevations last night, the snowpack near and below treeline remains weak with very little structure below the snow surface and will take time to adjust.   It's very challenging avalanche conditions out there today as we are not only dealing with storm snow instability but the potential of much bigger and dangerous avalanches. This is going to be an active week for snow and today is not the day to hop on any slope to get that powder fix we've been missing. 

HEADS UP IF YOU"RE TRAVELING UP TO TSV THE HIGHWAY IS CLOSED AT THE MOUTH OF THE CANYON AS OF THIS MORNING.  STAY SAFE OUT THERE TODAY!

 We will issue the next advisory on Saturday morning, 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!

Events and Happenings:

Thanks to everyone who joined us at Taos Mesa Brewing on Wed night, and THANK YOU KERRY JONES for an awesome presentation on weather and climate - he says it's gonna dump this spring gang!

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

It's always a great time to practice your avalanche beacon skills with our new weekly beacon practice problem at TSV! - we will swith up the problem today (thurs).

 

 

recent observations

Wednesday was another warm, sunny day and provided for some healthy exploring.  My partners and I investigated a variable snowpack in the South Fork drainage and found isothermal, gutless snow at lower elevations and came across debris from a large wet slide which released in the last couple of days (pic below).  This slide looked to have started high in the rocks on a NE aspect, before gouging to the ground mid-path.  The low elevation snowpack is disappearing quickly, making for tricky exits.  Higher elevation slopes were supportable and provided for a few good corn turns mid morning.

On Tuesday my partner and I returned to a familiar area of E aspects around 11,000 to monitor the changes with yet another night without a deep freeze.  Morning corn skiing was good, but the window was even shorter than Monday's.  Surface melting occured almost a full hour earlier than the previous day, and the snowpack was wet much deeper in a similar area.  Buried facets in the top 2+/- feet of the snowpack were wet, and where sitting on a crust, gave us continued cause for concern as the day heated up.  We carefully exited the variable lower elevation slopes by 10:30am, crashing through to ground in some areas - indicating a fully isothermal snowpack at low elevations.  Only true north facing mid and high elevation slopes were still holding cold, dry snow.

Pic; debris from a wet slide observed in the South Fork drainage on Wed.  NE aspect near 9000 ft.

pic; Erna the dog search training in debris from a human triggered wet slab from Sat.  ENE aspect.

 

 

 

Pic; The cold coffee test on a 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.

 

 

CURRENT CONDITIONS Weather observations from the Wheeler Peak Wilderness between 9000 ft. and 13000 ft.
0600 temperature: 16.2 deg. F.
Max. temperature in the last 24 hours: 37.5 deg. F.
Average wind direction during the last 24 hours: WSW
Average wind speed during the last 24 hours: 18 mph
Maximum wind gust in the last 24 hours: 38 mph
New snowfall in the last 24 hours: 12-14 inches
Total snow depth: 88 inches
weather

The first of three storms hit us last night and will continue through today with light snow showers as we see NW winds and wraparound snow.  Temperatures should remain cold enough for snow at 9000' during the day.  NW winds will be 10 - 30 MPH in the morning before tappering off in the afternoon.  Saturday will bring sunny skies and slightly warmer temps before the second system moves in Saturday night.

Two-Day Mountain Weather Forecast Produced in partnership with the Albuquerque NWS
For 9000 ft. to 10000 ft.
  Friday Friday Night Saturday
Weather: Mostly cloudy with snow likely in the morning Mostly Clear Mostly Sunny
Temperatures: high to 35 deg. F. low to 23 deg. F. high to 45 deg. F.
Wind direction: NW W SW
Wind speed: 10-25 5-15 5-15
Expected snowfall: 0.6-1.3 in. 0 in. 0 in.
For 11000 ft. to 13000 ft.
  Friday Friday Night Saturday
Weather: Mostly cloudy with snow likely in the morning Mostly Clear Mostly Sunny
Temperatures: high 30 deg. F. low to 21 deg. F. high 35 deg. F.
Wind direction: NW NW SW
Wind speed: 15-30 decreasing to 15-20 in the afternoon 5-20 5-15
Expected snowfall: 0.7-1.6 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.