THIS AVALANCHE ADVISORY EXPIRED ON January 21, 2018 @ 5:55 am
Avalanche Advisory published on January 20, 2018 @ 5:55 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

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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: 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

With 7-16" of snow forecasted between tonight and tomorrow, maybe winter will start to turn around a little bit.  It's been a tough season so far, and tough it's the middle of January, our snowpack is still very weak, thin and variable.  If you find yourself out for a walk during this last day of warm sunny weather before the storm, it's a good idea to take a photo or mental picture of places that are currently holding snow.  Most of the new snow this weekend will be falling on bare ground, which won't be much of a concern.  An uptick in avalanche hazard could happen overnight 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.  We'll see what we get! 

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

If the weather forecast verifies tonight and tomorrow, it will be important to know where pockets of old snow exist, as these will become the areas of most concern.  These are north aspects above treeline, in places where new snow sits on top of previously wind loaded slopes, and are the the slopes with the deepest snowpack.  They are also the ones with the most instability currently and though 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 recently:

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 throughout the day, before a storm rolls in this evening.  It looks like temperatures may hover around freezing, with increasing winds as precipitation begins.  Snow total estimates for tonight are in the ballpark of 4-8 inches, with snow continuing through Sunday, when another 3-7" are anticipated.  Could we finally catch a break from the pattern of storms fizzling or splitting at the last minute with this one?  Keep those fingers crossed!

Weather observations from the Wheeler Peak Wilderness between 9000 ft. and 13000 ft.
0600 temperature: 22 deg. F.
Max. temperature in the last 24 hours: 43 deg. F.
Average wind direction during the last 24 hours: SW
Average wind speed during the last 24 hours: 18 mph
Maximum wind gust in the last 24 hours: 23 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.
Saturday Saturday Night Sunday
Weather: Partly Cloudy Partly Cloudy. With isolated snow showers in the evening then cloudy with widespread snow Numerous snow showers
Temperatures: 48-53 deg. F. 21 deg. F. 25-30 deg. F.
Wind Direction: SW SW W
Wind Speed: 5-15 10-20 10-20
Expected snowfall: 0 in. 1.4-5.2 in. 2.5-6.4 in.
For 11000 ft. to 13000 ft.
Saturday Saturday Night Sunday
Weather: Partly Cloudy. Isolated snow showers in the afternoon. Partly Cloudy. With isolated snow showers in the evening, then cloudy with widespread snow showers after midnight. Areas of blowing snow though the night. Areas of blowing snow in the morning. Numerous snow showers.
Temperatures: 36-43 deg. F. 9-15 deg. F. 14-21 deg. F.
Wind Direction: SW SW W
Wind Speed: 10-20 15-30 10-25
Expected snowfall: 0.1-0.2 in. 2.4-6.8 in. 3.6-9.8 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.