THIS AVALANCHE ADVISORY EXPIRED ON January 12, 2018 @ 5:11 am
Avalanche Advisory published on January 11, 2018 @ 5:11 am
Issued by Andy Bond - Taos Avalanche Center

LOW avalanche danger exists at all elevations.  LOW danger does not mean no danger and unstable snow may still linger on isolated terrain features.  Small avalanches could still occur in areas above 11,000' on north aspects where surface slabs have formed on our existing weak snowpack.  Evaluate the terrain and snowpack while traveling in the backcountry to identify where these isolated areas of unstable snow may still exist.

1. Low

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Above Treeline
Generally safe avalanche conditions. Watch for unstable snow on isolated terrain features.

1. Low

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Near Treeline
Generally safe avalanche conditions. Watch for unstable snow on isolated terrain features.

1. Low

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Below Treeline
Generally safe avalanche conditions. Watch for unstable snow on isolated terrain features.
    Generally safe avalanche conditions. Watch for unstable snow on isolated terrain features.
  • 1. Low
  • 2. Moderate
  • 3. Considerable
  • 4. High
  • 5. Extreme
Avalanche Problem 1: Wind Slab
  • Type ?
  • Aspect/Elevation ?
  • Likelihood ?
    Certain
    Very Likely
    Likely
    Possible
    Unlikely
  • Size ?
    Historic
    Very Large
    Large
    Small

The 2 to 4 inches of snow that fell yesterday and last night will be available for transport with today's forecasted moderate northwest winds .  The new snow fell on a variety of surfaces ranging from bare ground, to facets and crusts.  Any concern today will be confined to where the new snow is being drifted into surface slabs on the snow that was still lingering from earlier storms.  These areas are found above 11,000' on north aspects, where we have a thin and highly variable snowpack.  We can expect to find snow transporting in areas below ridgelines, cross-loaded gullies and bowls.  These are also the areas that most likely to be holding snow from earlier in the season.  Avoid steep terrain over 35 degrees where you find 6 inches or more of wind drifted snow.

Pay attention to bulls-eye clues like shooting cracks, collapse and whumping sounds as these are indications that you've found a slab/weak layer combination.  Even though the avalanche danger is LOW, triggering an avalanche can't be ruled out.  Any avalanche would be small, but with our thin snowpack any ride could cause serious injury. 

advisory discussion

We just can't catch a break and get a storm that will help us start to build up our base. Wednesday's storm brought less snowfall than was forecasted, with 2 to 4 inches and .1 to .2" of SWE falling in our mountains.  This new snow will remind us that it is winter, but won't be enough to keep the avalanche danger at Moderate.  Even with a LOW danger rating, small avalanches can't be ruled out today in isolated terrain.  Winds look to pick up out of the Northwest and we can expect to see drifting snow potentially creating surface slabs.  Any concern today will be found in areas where these surface slabs are resting on top of our weak existing snowpack.  These slopes will be found on north aspects at higher elevation and consist of top to bottom facets. Areas of concern are steep terrain like convex rolls or cross-loaded gullies.  With our very weak and thin snowpack, a small wind slab avalanche has the potential to step down into older layers in isolated areas.

It's looking like we'll have to wait a bit before our next shot at snow.  If you find yourself needing to get a skiing fix and getting away from this lack of snow depression, think about heading north and be sure to check out avalanches conditions on Avalanche.org

recent observations

Snow remains above 11,000' on north aspects, which is mostly comprised of cohesion-less facets.  At higher elevations we have isolated pockets of slab/facet combinations varying in depth from 1 to 3'.  Overall our snowpack is weak with a poor snowpack structure in place.  On Tuesday we were able to get collapse in a couple areas where weak depth hoar has been capped by a slab.  The snowpack remains highly variable in depth and distribution.  Lingering snow is not always in the obvious starting zones.  Stability tests are indicating that areas where we do have slab/weak layer combinations are not going to be able to handle much weight. 

Photo: Shooting crack from Tuesday on a north aspect.  

Photo: Cohesion-less facets running like water on steep terrain

Weather and CURRENT CONDITIONS
weather summary

With the storm making its exit late last night, clear skies has left morning temperatures well below freezing. Sunny skies will return today with temperatures in the low 30's at 9000'.  Winds will be 15 to 25 MPH winds out the Northwest. Temperatures will rise by Friday accompanied with breezy conditions.  We'll have to wait a bit for our next chance of snow at the end of next week.  It's looking like another week of high pressure, before hopefully we see a pattern shift and things becoming more active for us.

 

Weather observations from the Wheeler Peak Wilderness between 9000 ft. and 13000 ft.
0600 temperature: 9.8 deg. F.
Max. temperature in the last 24 hours: 23.7 deg. F.
Average wind direction during the last 24 hours: WSW
Average wind speed during the last 24 hours: 10 mph
Maximum wind gust in the last 24 hours: 30 mph
New snowfall in the last 24 hours: 2-4 inches
Total snow depth: 8 inches
Two-Day Mountain Weather Forecast Produced in partnership with the Albuquerque NWS
For 9000 ft. to 10000 ft.
Thursday Thursday Night Friday
Weather: Mostly Sunny Mostly Clear Partly Cloudy
Temperatures: 33 deg. F. 18-23 deg. F. 41 deg. F.
Wind Direction: NW W W
Wind Speed: 5-20 5-25 10-30
Expected snowfall: 0 in. 0 in. 0 in.
For 11000 ft. to 13000 ft.
Thursday Thursday Night Friday
Weather: Mostly Sunny Mostly Clear Partly Cloudy
Temperatures: 20-27 deg. F. 15-20 deg. F. 27-35 deg. F.
Wind Direction: W NW NW
Wind Speed: 15-25 15-30 10-30
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.