THIS AVALANCHE ADVISORY EXPIRED ON January 20, 2018 @ 5:45 am
Avalanche Advisory published on January 19, 2018 @ 5:45 am
Issued by Hannah McGowan - Taos Avalanche Center

The avalanche danger continues to remain LOW. Triggering an avalanche today remains unlikely.  Watch for areas of unstable snow that can be found on higher elevation north aspects where you find a poor snowpack structure of slab/weak layer combinations. Evaluate the terrain and snowpack while traveling in the backcountry to identify where these isolated areas of unstable snow may still exist.  

1. Low

?

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

1. Low

?

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

1. Low

?

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: Persistent Slab
  • Type ?
  • Aspect/Elevation ?
  • Likelihood ?
    Certain
    Very Likely
    Likely
    Possible
    Unlikely
  • Size ?
    Historic
    Very Large
    Large
    Small

Generally safe avalanche conditions exist.  Although unlikely to trigger an avalanche today, unlikely does not mean impossible.  Watch for unstable snow on isolated steep slopes above treeline on north to east aspects, including cross-loaded gullies, concave bowls, and beneath ridgelines.  These are the places holding the most snow right now from winds depositing snow from early season snow storms.  The snowpack in these areas has a poor snowpack structure-- basically strong over weak-- where we have slabs resting over weak sugary faceted snow.  Any instability that could be encountered today will be found in these places.  

advisory discussion

It's been a tough season so far, and tough its the middle of January, our snowpack is still very weak, thin and variable.  With a storm on its way this weekend, maybe we can turn the corner with snow coverage and end up with enough snow to travel upon.  The jury's still out on that one, but it doesn't hurt to hope.  If you find yourself out for a walk during this warm sunny weather, it's a good idea to take a photo or mental picture as to where the existing snow is currently at.  Most of the new snow this weekend will be falling on bare ground, which won't be much of a concern.  Any uptick in avalanche hazard will be where the new snow falls on the old stressing some of our buried weak layers or creating a cohesive slab capping our mostly faceted snowpack.  

Any avalanche danger today is manageable and confined to higher elevation north to east aspects where you find a deeper snowpack.  These pockets are easy to identify and contain both the old that has collected all season as well as the most recent snow from January 10/11.  In these places we are typically finding poor snowpack structure, with slabs over weak, sugary depth hoar. Even though triggering an avalanche today is unlikely, it doesn't mean it's impossible. Any avalanche triggered would be small, but has the potential to step down into older layers near the ground creating a potentially larger more destructive avalanche. Slopes near treeline and below are in need of more snow before they can be of concern. 

If you find yourself leaving town,  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 wind loaded slopes, are the the slopes with the deepest snowpack, and also the ones with the most instability.  The snowpack in these places is highly variable, though they share the common theme of having a very poor structure.  Here's a look at a couple of different slab/weak layer combinations found on these types of slopes in the last few days:

Photo 1: Lake Fork Crown  1/12

Photos 2: Lake Fork Crown profile 1/12

 

 

 

Weather and CURRENT CONDITIONS
weather summary

Unseasonably warm temperatures continue today before cooling off with a potential storm this weekend.  So far we're still on track to pick up some snow with this storm, though there's disagreement between models around how much and when.  What looks to be fairly certain is that winds will pick up with this storm and clouds will linger for a day or so afterwards.  The way things are goin, it's hard to put too much trust into forecasted snowfall amounts, but we could see 2-4" start to accumulate Saturday night and continue through Sunday.  The details are still to fuzzy to speak with confidence, but at this point we'll take anything we can get.  

Weather observations from the Wheeler Peak Wilderness between 9000 ft. and 13000 ft.
0600 temperature: 28 deg. F.
Max. temperature in the last 24 hours: 38 deg. F.
Average wind direction during the last 24 hours: NW
Average wind speed during the last 24 hours: 9.4 mph
Maximum wind gust in the last 24 hours: 17 mph
New snowfall in the last 24 hours: 0 inches
Total snow depth: 6.9 inches
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 Partly Cloudy Partly Cloudy. Slight chance of snowshowers in the afternoon.
Temperatures: 46-51 deg. F. 27 deg. F. 42 deg. F.
Wind Direction: W W SW
Wind Speed: 5-20 5-20 5-20
Expected snowfall: 0 in. 0 in. 0.01 in.
For 11000 ft. to 13000 ft.
Friday Friday Night Saturday
Weather: Partly Cloudy. Partly Cloudy. Partly Cloudy. Slight chance of snowshowers in the afternoon.
Temperatures: 37-42 deg. F. 24 deg. F. 29-36 deg. F.
Wind Direction: W W SW
Wind Speed: 5-20 10-20 10-25
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.