THIS AVALANCHE ADVISORY EXPIRED ON March 29, 2017 @ 5:47 am
Avalanche Advisory published on March 28, 2017 @ 5:47 am
Issued by Andy Bond - 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.  Recent snow and moderate WSW winds continue to build isolated wind slabs below ridgetops and human triggered avalanches are possible. Expect increasing avalanche danger throughout the day and evening as storm slab avalanches become possible.   Evaluate the snowpack and terrain carefully, and be concious of  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 above treeline.  Sunday's fresh snow (5-7") has been effected by the wind and has formed soft wind slabs on the leeward sides of ridges and gullies. These slabs are gaining strength with time, but triggering them is still possible, and could result in large, dangerous avalanches on isolated slopes.  These slabs are generally below ridgetops and easy to identify and avoid and do not exist on all slopes.

Avalanche Problem 2: Storm Slab
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Assuming the forecast verifies, snow will start to accumulate throughout the day.  Expect avalanche danger to rise throughout the day and into the evening.  This new snow will fall on a variety of surfaces from melt-freeze crusts to near surface facets and isolated wind slabs above treeline.  The bulk of the snow should fall overnight with 10 to 20 inches of snow forecasted by Wednesday morning. Avoid slopes where you find 6 or more inches of new or wind loaded snow as these slopes will be the most suspect. 

advisory discussion

Over 30" of snow has fallen in last 4 days. Most of this snow is starting to settle and consolidate into slabs laying on top of a melt-freeze crust. For the most part instability in the last couple of days has been isolated wind slabs that have formed below ridgetops. Small natural and human triggered wind slab avalanches have been observed over the last two days.  While these slabs will heal with time it is possible to trigger them on isolated slopes, creating potentially dangerous avalanche conditions.   Snowpack variability exists as we travel from slope to slope requiring careful investigation of the zone you plan to play in.

Avalanche conditions could change quickly today. Another spring strom will impact our area as we've been put under a Winter Storm Warning.  As snow starts to fall over our area, expect avalanche danger to increase throughout the day. We've kept the avalanche danger at Moderate above and near treeline and Low below treeline as the forecast is calling for more snow and higher winds at these elevations.  Assuming the forecast verifies, 10 to 20" of additional snow could fall by Wednesday morning. This new snow and increase in winds will make the avalanche danger rise throughout the day and into the evening as human tirggered storm slab avalanches become possible. As conditions change so to will the avalanche danger.  Slopes over 32 degrees with 6 or more inches of new snow will be the most suspect. Backcountry travelers should be aware of these rapidly changing avalanche conditons.   

 

We will issue the next advisory on Wednesday 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:

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

Sorry gang, we don't have an avalanche beacon problem set up this week (yet) but will keep you posted as soon as we do.

recent observations

Monday was a sunny day with warming temperatures.  Strong spring sun warmed the recently fallen snow with several loose wet avalanches observed in steep solar terrain.  Isolated wind slabs were observed below ridgetops with some natural activity most likely from Sunday.  We are finding a small sun/melt-freeze crust from Saturday's sunny warm weather that Sunday's 5-7" of snow fell on.  Stability tests are indicating that this is only reactive in areas where wind has impacted this recently fallen snow.

Sunday greeted us with a welcomed 5-7" of moderate density snow, drastically improving the skiing and riding conditions in the backcountry.  Our pal Will made this video explaining his findings on a W aspect below treeline.  The sun crust from Sat is very evident and will likely provide a smooth sliding surface for subsequent new snow.  Thanks Will!  We also noticed the slow, steady growth of cornice and pillow (soft isolated windslabs) at the ridgetops on Sunday, and the TSV Patrol reported good results with explosives, although none of the wind slabs and cornices they triggered stepped down into deeper layers below last week's crust - a good sign.

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.  My partners and I toured around some East aspects near treeline and found "challenging" conditions but a healing snowpack, explained in this video .

Pic; small natural wind slab avalanche on an East aspect around 12,500'

Pic; Isolated wind slab below ridgetops

Pic; isolated cornice and pillow on ENE face near treeline on Sunday

Pic; wind slab formed Friday on E face near treeline

CURRENT CONDITIONS Weather observations from the Wheeler Peak Wilderness between 9000 ft. and 13000 ft.
0600 temperature: 23.3 deg. F.
Max. temperature in the last 24 hours: 35.3 deg. F.
Average wind direction during the last 24 hours: WSW
Average wind speed during the last 24 hours: 15 mph
Maximum wind gust in the last 24 hours: 52 mph
New snowfall in the last 24 hours: 1.5 inches
Total snow depth: 94.5 inches
weather

The first of two upper lows to impact our area in the next 5 days will slowly start moving east from Arizona.  Snow levels looks to start off around 8000' before slowly dropping throughout the day. 10 to 20 inches is forecasted for the Sangre de Cristo Mtns as we've been put under a Winter Storm Warning starting a little later today.  The bulk of the snow will arrive this afternoon and evening. WInds will pick up out of the NE (10-20 MPH) later today.  

Two-Day Mountain Weather Forecast Produced in partnership with the Albuquerque NWS
For 9000 ft. to 10000 ft.
  Tuesday Tuesday Night Wednesday
Weather: Snow Showers Snow showers. Snow showers
Temperatures: high to 33 deg. F. low to 28 deg. F. high to 33 deg. F.
Wind direction: E NE N
Wind speed: 5-10 5-20 10-25
Expected snowfall: 0.2-1.9 in. 2.8-10.2 in. 0.4-3.0 in.
For 11000 ft. to 13000 ft.
  Tuesday Tuesday Night Wednesday
Weather: Snow Showers Snow Showers Snow Showers
Temperatures: high 27 deg. F. low to 23 deg. F. high 25 deg. F.
Wind direction: S NE N
Wind speed: 5-10 10-20 15-25
Expected snowfall: 3.4-5.5 in. 4.0-11.4 in. 1.1-3.9 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.