THIS AVALANCHE ADVISORY EXPIRED ON March 27, 2017 @ 6:10 am
Avalanche Advisory published on March 26, 2017 @ 6:10 am
Issued by Graham Turnage - Taos Avalanche Center

2. Moderate

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Above Treeline

2. Moderate

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Near Treeline

1. Low

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Below Treeline

MODERATE avalanche danger exists above and near treeline while areas below treeline have a LOW danger today.  Wind slab and persistent slab avalanche problems are expected today. Evaluate the snowpack and terrain carefully, and be concious of changing conditions and snowpack variations from slope to slope.

  • Heightened avalanche conditions on specific terrain features. Evaluate snow and terrain carefully; identify features of concern.
Avalanche Problem 1: Wind Slab
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Swirling mountain winds during and after Thursday night's impressive storm have formed wind slabs near and above treeline.  These slabs are gaining strength with cold temps and time, but triggering them is still possible, and could result in large, dangerous avalanches on isolated slopes.  These slabs are generally easy to identify and do not exist on all slopes.  Leeward sides of ridges and gullies in the high and mid elevations are the most suspect and should be avoided.  Fresh snow from this morning will likely form small soft wind slabs with moderate NW winds throughout the day.

Avalanche Problem 2: Persistent Slab
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Last weeks warm temps and intense sun warmed the snowpack on most slopes, creating a layer of weak, wet snow beneath a thin crust, now buried by 2 feet of new snow.  This layer does not exist on all slopes, requiring careful inspection of the snowpack on the slopes you wish to play on.  Time and colder temps are helping to heal this problematic layer, but it is still possible to trigger a persistent slab and a smaller surface avalanche may be enough of a trigger to step down into this old layer of rotten snow.  Areas where the snowpack is thin like rocky ribs have wet facets on the ground which are still willing to propagate in stability tests.

advisory discussion

A whopper of a spring storm exited our area Friday after dumping 2 feet of snow and about 2.5" of Snow Water Equvialent (SWE).  Last night gave us a refresh with 5 more inches of snow in most mountain locations. As we transition back into winter so to will our avalanche problems, with a return of wind slab and persistent slab avalanche problems.  Weak, wet snow exists below the thin melt/freeze and sun crusts from last week's warm temps.  This layer of wet facets appears to be gaining strength as the weight of the new snow and colder temps start to bond these layers.  We were not able to trigger propagation of this layer in our stability tests on Saturday, but I am not convinced the healing process is complete, which leaves us with a MODERATE avalanche danger near and above treeline.  Low elevation slopes have a LOW danger today, due to a solid freeze last night.  Snowpack variability exists as we travel from slope to slope requiring careful investigation of the zone you plan to play in.  Dig down and see what you're dealing with, as the existence of wet facets below the new snow is cause for concern.  Recently formed wind slabs will take time to bond to their underlying surfaces and should be avoided.  Have fun out there and stay safe with careful terrain choices.

We will issue the next advisory on Monday 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

recent observations

They say the early bird gets the worm and we found that to be the case with this storm.  Saturday morning had folks fired up for a long overdue dose of powder but it didn't last long as warm temps and direct sun made their mark by mid morning.  A regular observer said it well;  "All the nice fresh pow on the way up was wet as @#$% as we tried to ski out".  My partners and I toured around some East aspects near treeline and found "challenging" conditions but a healing snowpack.  If a picture is worth a thousand words then this video should get us a few hundred, and explains our findings.  Skiing conditions deteriorated quickly and we had to employ full on survival skiing techniques to safely navigate our exit through lower elevations.  Loose wet slides were observed on solar aspects during the midday heat, but did not appear to step down into older layers.  Fresh wind slabs were also evident and easily avoided.  See pics below.

Pic; wind slab formed Friday on E face near treeline

 
 
PIc; wet rollerballs just beginning on E aspect 10:30am Saturday
 
 
Pic; wet facets persist below melt freeze crusts but are starting to heal
 
 

Pic; Snowpit from Friday on an East Aspect Near Treeline.

 

 

CURRENT CONDITIONS Weather observations from the Wheeler Peak Wilderness between 9000 ft. and 13000 ft.
0600 temperature: 19.8 deg. F.
Max. temperature in the last 24 hours: 36.8 deg. F.
Average wind direction during the last 24 hours: W
Average wind speed during the last 24 hours: 20 mph
Maximum wind gust in the last 24 hours: 42 mph
New snowfall in the last 24 hours: 5 inches
Total snow depth: 95.5 inches
weather

A weak storm system moving through the northern third of the state will continue to result in mountain snow showers today.  Moderate northwest winds will develop across much of the area during the afternoon. A break in between storm systems is expected Monday before a stronger storm moves across central New Mexico Tuesday and Wednesday. This system is expected to bring with it the potential for significant precipitation Tuesday night into Wednesday.

Two-Day Mountain Weather Forecast Produced in partnership with the Albuquerque NWS
For 9000 ft. to 10000 ft.
  Sunday Sunday Night Monday
Weather: Mostly cloudy with a chance of snow showers. Partly cloudy. Partly cloudy.
Temperatures: high to 50 deg. F. low to 25 deg. F. high to 55 deg. F.
Wind direction: NW W SW
Wind speed: 5-20 5-10 5-15
Expected snowfall: .5-1.7 in. 0 in. 0 in.
For 11000 ft. to 13000 ft.
  Sunday Sunday Night Monday
Weather: Mostly cloudy with a chance of snow showers. Partly cloudy. Partly cloudy.
Temperatures: high 34 deg. F. low to 23 deg. F. high 37 deg. F.
Wind direction: NW W SW
Wind speed: 10-20 5-15 5-15
Expected snowfall: 1-2.5 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.