THIS AVALANCHE ADVISORY EXPIRED ON January 23, 2018 @ 5:52 am
Avalanche Advisory published on January 22, 2018 @ 5:52 am
Issued by Andy Bond - Taos Avalanche Center

Human triggered storm slab and persistent slab avalanche remain possible today as MODERATE avalanche danger exists at all elevations.  A much needed storm has brought 10 to 18 inches of new snow that will test our weak thin snowpack.  Evaluate snow and terrain carefully and make a plan to avoid areas where these avalanche problems may exist.

2. Moderate

?

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

2. Moderate

?

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

2. Moderate

?

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

The first major storm of the year will test our weak snowpack. Human triggered persistent slab avalanches are possible today.  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 where we have slabs resting over weak sugary faceted snow

The hard part is that it will be tough to identify where the old snow was before this storm.  These persistent slabs were only located on specific slopes and not widespread.  If you plan on getting out and playing in the new snow today assume every slope near and above treeline has this poor snowpack structure.  Take the time to dig down into the snow and assess if the new snow has fallen on old snow.  Look for slabs that exist over weaker snow as these will be the slopes with the most concern today. If you find this set-up or experience shooting cracks, whumpfing and collapse it's best to avoid these slopes. 

Avalanche Problem 2: Storm Slab
  • Type ?
  • Aspect/Elevation ?
  • Likelihood ?
    Certain
    Very Likely
    Likely
    Possible
    Unlikely
  • Size ?
    Historic
    Very Large
    Large
    Small

The storm made it's exit last night with storm totals ranging from 10 to 18" of snow and .7 to 1.2" of SWE.  Northwest winds picked up over night with steady winds 15 to 20 MPH Gusting in the 30's. It was more of an elevational storm with higher snow amounts at the upper elevations.    The new snow is fell on a variety of surfaces from bare ground, crusts to cohesion-less facets. Where the new snow is fell on our older snow will be the biggest concern, especially in areas where we have a storm slab resting on top of weak sugar-like snow. See Andy's video from Sunday.  Shooting cracks were observed yesterday at all elevations. 

Avoid steep slopes like convex rolls where you find 8" or more of new snow or wind drifted pillows.  Any storm slab avalanche would be small, but has the potential of stepping down into older layers creating a larger more destructive avalanche.  Be aware of terrain traps where a small avalanche could pile up.  

advisory discussion

Finally a storm that brought us some much needed snow.  The new snow will go a long way laying down a base that will hopefully make traveling easier in the future.  Even with the new snow, it's still thin with lots of ground hazards present.  It's great to see our mountains covered in white again, but with that will also come an increase in avalanche danger.  It's been a rough start to our season, but it's a good idea to get your head back into the avalanche game.  If you plan to get out into the backcountry make sure all your gear is in working order.  

Human triggered persistent slab and storm slab avalanches are possible today.  We could also see small loose snow avalanches in areas that haven't been impacted by the wind. The real concern today is where the new snow has fallen on our lingering snow from previous storms.  The season history of our snowpack can be summed up as thin, weak and highly variable.  Snow from earlier this year can be found above 11,000' on north through east aspects. The old snow consists of weak sugar-like snow or slab/weak layer combinations that for the most part are not continuous but are surprising deep for the little bit of snow we've had this year.  It's these terrain features that do contain a deeper snowpack from previous storms that have incredibly weak snowpack and will not be able to handle much weight from this storm.   

With the new snow it will be difficult today to identify where the previous snow existed.  Expect the unexpected, as we could see avalanches start in atypical start zones. With our highly variable and thin snowpack things can change quickly where you go from a shallow snowpack to a surprising amount of snow.  We have lots of trigger points right now that could initiate a larger deeper avalanche that could cause serious injury.  It sounds weird to say the season is just starting at the end of January, but we still have several months of skiing in front of us.  Ease into it as we still have a thin snowpack where lots of ground hazards exist.  Even a small avalanche today could cause serious injury.   

recent observations

Widespread collapsing and shooting cracks on Sunday near and above treeline on northerly aspects.  In some instances shooting cracks were running 100'.    No naturals were observed but reports of TSP triggering small storm slab avalanches.  

Photo: Storm Slab sitting on top of weak sugary facets

Photo: Large Depth Hoar that is the major culprit of our instability

Weather and CURRENT CONDITIONS
weather summary

Lingering clouds will stick with us this morning before giving away to sunshine and high clouds.  It's a frigid morning with temperatures below 0.  Temperatures should rebound today into the teens and low 20's.  Moderate NW winds will stick with us today and should diminish tomorrow.  We'll see a warming trend the next few days with our next shot at snow coming Friday.  Right now it's looks mostly like wind, but hopefully it'll drop a little further south.  

Weather observations from the Wheeler Peak Wilderness between 9000 ft. and 13000 ft.
0600 temperature: -1.3 deg. F.
Max. temperature in the last 24 hours: 9.1 deg. F.
Average wind direction during the last 24 hours: W
Average wind speed during the last 24 hours: 14 mph
Maximum wind gust in the last 24 hours: 42 mph
New snowfall in the last 24 hours: 6-10 inches
Total snow depth: 20 inches
Two-Day Mountain Weather Forecast Produced in partnership with the Albuquerque NWS
For 9000 ft. to 10000 ft.
Monday Monday Night Tuesday
Weather: Mostly Sunny Mostly Clear Mostly Sunny
Temperatures: 28 deg. F. 2-8 deg. F. 34 deg. F.
Wind Direction: NW W W
Wind Speed: 5-20 5-10 Up to 10
Expected snowfall: 0 in. 0 in. 0 in.
For 11000 ft. to 13000 ft.
Monday Monday Night Tuesday
Weather: Mostly Sunny Mostly Clear Mostly Sunny
Temperatures: 16-23 deg. F. 7 deg. F. 20-27 deg. F.
Wind Direction: NW W NW
Wind Speed: 10-20 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.