Avalanche Advisory published on March 31, 2017 @ 4:32 am
Issued by Graham Turnage - Taos Avalanche Center

2. Moderate


Above Treeline

2. Moderate


Near Treeline

1. Low


Below Treeline

MODERATE avalanche danger exists today near and above treeline due to the potential of a triggering wind slab avalanches, while below treeline areas have a LOW danger. Human triggered wind slab avalanches are possible and slopes steeper that 35degrees will be the most suspect.  Careful snowpack and terrain evaluation are recommended.

  • Heightened avalanche conditions on specific terrain features. Evaluate snow and terrain carefully; identify features of concern.
Avalanche Problem 1: Wind Slab
  • Character ?
  • Aspect/Elevation ?
  • Likelihood ?
    Very Likely
  • Size ?
    Very Large

New snow from the last couple of days has been transported by variable moderate and strong winds, forming isolated wind slabs on leeward sides of ridges and gullies.  These slabs will heal with time but remain touchy in places, especially on slopes steeper than 35degrees.  These wind slabs formed in unusual places with North and NE winds Tues night/wed, causing potential instability on slopes usually scoured by wind.  Winds have shifting back to our usual West so expect isolated wind slabs on all aspects until you prove otherwise.

advisory discussion

Today human triggered wind slab avalanches are possible and the avalanche danger is rated MODERATE near and above treeline.  These slabs were formed on aspects typically scoured by WSW winds, creating potentially unstable conditions on aspects you're not used to seeing wind loading near and above treeline.  Wind slabs don't exist on all slopes and require careful evaluation today.  The new snow from early in the week fell on a host of crusts, and seems to be bonding well in most places where it was not effected by the wind.  Check out our VIDEO from Thursday.  Below treeline areas have a LOW danger.  Today should bring a change in the weather, and usher in a snowy weekend which will likely cause the avalanche danger to spike with new snow.  If the storm turns on earlier than expected be heads up for storm snow instability to rise if we get more than the forecast couple of inches today.  Be safe, stay tuned, and pray for snow!

We will issue the next advisory on Saturday morning, and if you get out into the backcountry, please share any observations with us at or on the "submit observations" tab at the top of the homepage - and Thank You!

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

Andy and Erna the dog and I toured up around the waterfalls in the lower Lake Fork/ Kachina area on Thursday and found wind loading and slab building on a N aspect near treeline.  That said we were encouraged by what we found in our stability tests as we could not initiate collapse or propagation of buried layers in the snowpack.  We also found good skiing in the morning before midday sun pummeled most slopes. Here's our VIDEO.

Check out Andy's VIDEO from Wednesday, which was a great day in the backcountry for observing North wind transporting snow, forming small isolated wind slabs.  On Wed a regular observer noticed a natural wind slab avalanche on a NW face behind Lake Fork peak, which he surmised was a normally thin spot, now loaded from East winds at the ridgetops.

Pic; West face showing wind slabs formed from NE earlier in the week.

Pic; N facing windslab below "His and Hers" on Thurs.





CURRENT CONDITIONS Weather observations from the Wheeler Peak Wilderness between 9000 ft. and 13000 ft.
0600 temperature: 27.6 deg. F.
Max. temperature in the last 24 hours: 37.8 deg. F.
Average wind direction during the last 24 hours: WSW
Average wind speed during the last 24 hours: 23 mph
Maximum wind gust in the last 24 hours: 58 mph
New snowfall in the last 24 hours: 0 inches
Total snow depth: 96.2 inches

Winter is not done with us yet here in Northern New Mexico.  A partly cloudy morning should give way to an incoming Pacific cold front this afternoon, bringing snow showers later today with a high in the mid 30s in the mountains and building WSW winds. We expect to see a couple of inches of snow by this evening, and snowfall should continue tonight into Saturday with heavy accumumlations possible.  Cooler temps and strong winds are associated with this storm system while overnight lows look to be in the teens to low 20s.  Temps should stay relatively cold through the weekend.

check out the dive in the barometer this morning - encouraging!

Two-Day Mountain Weather Forecast Produced in partnership with the Albuquerque NWS
For 9000 ft. to 10000 ft.
  Friday Friday Night Saturday
Weather: Partly cloudy with scattered snow showers this afternoon. Snow showers likely. now showers likely.
Temperatures: high to 37 deg. F. low to 22 deg. F. high to 32 deg. F.
Wind direction: SW SE shifting to NE NE
Wind speed: 5-20 5-15 5-15
Expected snowfall: .1-.4 in. 2-4.5 in. 2-6 in.
For 11000 ft. to 13000 ft.
  Friday Friday Night Saturday
Weather: Partly cloudy with scattered snow showers this afternoon. Snow showers likely. Snow showers likely.
Temperatures: high to 33 deg. F. low to 18 deg. F. high to 24 deg. F.
Wind direction: SW S shifting to E NE
Wind speed: 5-20 5-15 5-15
Expected snowfall: .4-2 in. 2-4.5 in. 3-7 in.

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.