THIS AVALANCHE ADVISORY EXPIRED ON January 14, 2018 @ 5:24 am
Avalanche Advisory published on January 13, 2018 @ 5:24 am
Issued by Hannah McGowan - Taos Avalanche Center

MODERATE avalanche danger exists above treeline today, where incremental loading has stressed our very weak snowpack.  Human triggered avalanches are possible on isolated slopes where persistent slab instability exists.  There is LOW avalanche danger near and below treeline, where we don't have enough snow to avalanche.  It is important to identify features of concern and evaluate terrain carefully above treeline.  

2. Moderate

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Above Treeline
Heightened avalanche conditions on specific terrain features. Evaluate snow and terrain carefully; identify features of concern.

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.
    Heightened avalanche conditions on specific terrain features. Evaluate snow and terrain carefully; identify features of concern.
  • 1. Low
  • 2. Moderate
  • 3. Considerable
  • 4. High
  • 5. Extreme
Avalanche Problem 1: Persistent Slab
  • Type ?
  • Aspect/Elevation ?
  • Likelihood ?
    Certain
    Very Likely
    Likely
    Possible
    Unlikely
  • Size ?
    Historic
    Very Large
    Large
    Small

Isolated slopes above treeline on north to east aspects, including cross-loaded gullies, concave bowls, and beneath ridgelines, are the places holding the deepest snow right now.  The snowpack in these areas is made of slab/weak layer combinations,  with a layer of depth hoar just above the ground.  Weight has been added to the snowpack incrementally in the last few days, and it seems we are right on the edge of what these weak layers can handle.  Though the areas of concern are isolated, it is possible to trigger a 1-4 foot deep avalanche today that could cause serious injury, especially if combined with terrain traps or ground hazards.  Areas of most concern are where you find stiff, supportable slabs in the snowpack.  Avoid traveling on steep terrain over 35 degrees where you find a deeper snowpack.  Shooting cracks, collapses, or whumphing sounds are indications that you've found persistent slab instability. 

advisory discussion

The slopes of concern today are the same ones that look like they could fit a turn or two.  These slopes are above treeline, on north aspects, where enough previous windloading has occured to create a slab/weak layer combination in the snowpack.  This combination sits on top of a layer of depth hoar just above the ground, which is a very weak snowpack structure.  Weight has been added to the snowpack slowly in the last few days, starting with Wednesday night's 2-4 inches of snow, and continuing with wind loading from the moderate winds that followed.  Stability tests in the last two days have shown that we are hovering right around the limit of what the deeper weak layers can support.   Cracking and collapsing were observed  yesterday in nearly every pocket of snow that fits the bill for slopes we're concerned with today, and observers were able to trigger several avalanches on steep slopes.  In these pockets of snow it is possible to trigger an avalanche that breaks above you.  Though size of a potential avalanche today is relatively small, the surprisingly deep amount of snow (1-4 feet) that could be put in motion would have serious consequences.  Other than these deeper pockets of snow, Its still shallow, thin, and rocky out there-- we're still getting around on foot, sadly-- and slopes near treeline and below are in need of more snow before they can be of concern.  With no significant moisture in the forecast and a streak of storms that ended up missing us to the north or south, its hard to say when our snowpack will begin to build.  Models are showing a lot of uncertainty, but in dry times like this, uncertainty isn't necessarily a bad thing.  As always, let's keep it positive and let winter unfold. 

It's looking like we'll have to wait a bit before our next shot at snow.  If you find yourself leaving town to search of winter,  be sure to check out backcountry conditions on Avalanche.org

recent observations

North aspects above treeline, in places where new snow sits on top of previously windloaded slopes, are the not only the ones with the deepest snowpack, but also also the ones with the most instability.  

Photos 1 and 2: Here's a look at a couple of different slab/weak layer combinations from yesterday

Photo 3: An avalanche that broke above the person that triggered it and ran on depth hoar at the ground

 

 

 

 

 

 

Weather and CURRENT CONDITIONS
weather summary

Dry northwest flow will continue for the next couple days, with light winds and sunshine today and tomorrow.  Temperatures will stay a bit cooler today then rise back to above average temperatures on Sunday. There is a slight chance that we could see a small amount of moisture after the weekend, but models are not in alignment over the details. 

 

Weather observations from the Wheeler Peak Wilderness between 9000 ft. and 13000 ft.
0600 temperature: 14 deg. F.
Max. temperature in the last 24 hours: 32.8 deg. F.
Average wind direction during the last 24 hours: SW
Average wind speed during the last 24 hours: 14 mph
Maximum wind gust in the last 24 hours: 21.5 mph
New snowfall in the last 24 hours: 0 inches
Total snow depth: 8.2 inches
Two-Day Mountain Weather Forecast Produced in partnership with the Albuquerque NWS
For 9000 ft. to 10000 ft.
Saturday Saturday Night Sunday
Weather: Mostly Sunny Mostly Clear Mostly Sunny
Temperatures: 36 deg. F. 17 deg. F. 42 deg. F.
Wind Direction: W NW W
Wind Speed: 5-15 <10 <10
Expected snowfall: 0 in. 0 in. 0 in.
For 11000 ft. to 13000 ft.
Saturday Saturday Night Sunday
Weather: Mostly Sunny Mostly Clear Mostly Sunny
Temperatures: 28 deg. F. 17 deg. F. 31-36 deg. F.
Wind Direction: W NW W
Wind Speed: 5-15 5-15 5-10
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.