THIS AVALANCHE ADVISORY EXPIRED ON January 15, 2018 @ 5:48 am
Avalanche Advisory published on January 14, 2018 @ 5:48 am
Issued by Hannah McGowan - Taos Avalanche Center

MODERATE avalanche danger continues 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 was added to the snowpack incrementally with Wednesday night's snowfall and the winds that followed, and it seems we are now 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 last week, 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 few days have shown that we are hovering right around the limit of what the deeper weak layers can support.  On the steeper suspect slopes, observers were able to trigger several avalanches on Friday.  Cracking and collapsing in these areas was also observed. Though the 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.  Slopes near treeline and below are in need of more snow before they can be of concern.  Models are showing a lot of uncertainty around our next shot of snow, but perhaps next weekend could refresh the wintery look in our mountains.  In dry times like this, uncertainty isn't necessarily a bad thing.  As always, let's keep it positive and let winter unfold. 

If you find yourself leaving town to get out on your boards,  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.  Observers were able to trigger several avalanches on Friday on these types of slopes.  

Photo 1: An avalanche that broke above the person that triggered it and ran on depth hoar at the ground. 

Photos 2 and 3: Here's a look at a couple of different slab/weak layer combinations from Friday

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Weather and CURRENT CONDITIONS
weather summary

Sunshine and light winds continue today though temperatures will be 10-15 degrees higher than yesterday.  A little bit of moisture could arrive tomorrow,  with a slight chance of snow in the afternoon and temperatures cooling off.  It looks like the coming weekend could bring our next real chance for snow, though its too far out to say anything for certain.

 

Weather observations from the Wheeler Peak Wilderness between 9000 ft. and 13000 ft.
0600 temperature: 21 deg. F.
Max. temperature in the last 24 hours: 30 deg. F.
Average wind direction during the last 24 hours: SW
Average wind speed during the last 24 hours: 13.5 mph
Maximum wind gust in the last 24 hours: 22.7 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.
Sunday Sunday Night Monday
Weather: Sunny Mostly Clear Partly Cloudy. Slight chance of snow in the afternoon
Temperatures: 40-45 deg. F. 19 deg. F. 32-37 deg. F.
Wind Direction: W NW W
Wind Speed: 5-10 5-15 up to 10
Expected snowfall: 0 in. 0 in. 0.1-0.2 in.
For 11000 ft. to 13000 ft.
Sunday Sunday Night Monday
Weather: Sunny Mostly Clear Partly Cloudy. Slight chance of snow in the afternoon.
Temperatures: 31-36 deg. F. 19 deg. F. 22-28 deg. F.
Wind Direction: NW W W
Wind Speed: 5-15 5-15 5-10
Expected snowfall: 0 in. 0 in. 0.1-0.2 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.