THIS AVALANCHE ADVISORY EXPIRED ON January 24, 2018 @ 6:02 am
Avalanche Advisory published on January 23, 2018 @ 6:02 am
Issued by Hannah McGowan - Taos Avalanche Center

Avalanche danger is MODERATE near treeline and above, where human triggered wind slab and persistent slab avalanches remain possible.  A much needed storm over the weekend brought moderate winds and 10 to 18 inches of new snow to our thin and variable snowpack.  Evaluate snow and terrain carefully and make a plan to avoid areas where these avalanche problems may exist.

2. Moderate

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

2. Moderate

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

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
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Human triggered persistent slab avalanches are possible today on specific slopes above treeline.  Watch for unstable snow on steep north to east aspects, including cross-loaded gullies, concave bowls, and beneath ridgelines. These are the places that have been collecting snow since November, where older slabs sit on top of weak faceted snow.  It may be tough to identify where the old snow was before this storm, so take the time to dig down and see if you're traveling on slabs that existed before this weekend's storm.  If you find this snowpack structure or experience signs of instability like shooting cracks, whumpfing, and collapsing, then it's best to avoid these slopes. 

 

 

Avalanche Problem 2: Wind Slab
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The winds picked up Sunday night as the storm tapered off, and continued all day yesterday, with gusts in the 40's.  With 10-18" of new snow available for transport, wind slabs have formed near treeline and above.  Wind slabs usually have firm or smooth surfaces, and form on the lee of ridgelines, gullies, and other terrain features capable of catching snow from the wind.  Be on the lookout today for steep slopes with recent deposits of wind drifted snow.  Any wind 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 and ground hazards, which would make even a small avalanche have big consequences. 

advisory discussion

It finally feels like winter in the mountains after this weekend's storm!  Traveling on your boards is finally possible in certain places, though thin coverage and excessive ground hazards remain. Though getting up to the areas where persistent slab instability does exist is still a chore, it is important to know that these are the places with the most avalanche danger today.  Persistent slab instability can be found on specific steep, N-E facing slopes above treeline, including where crossloaded gullies and terrain features.  These are places where slabs from before this weekend storm sit above weak sugary facets at the ground level.  It may be tricky to identify exactly where this structure exists, so it is worth your while to dig into the snow.  Look for a weak snowpack structure like the one in the picture below, which was taken Saturday just before the storm rolled in. 

Wind slab instability exists also in many of these same places after this weekend's storm and the winds that followed.  It is possible to trigger a wind slab avalanche today, and in areas with persistent slab, it is possible for a wind slab avalanche to step down to lower faceted layers.  Any avalanche today would be of high consequece, considering the amount of ground hazards that are present in our shallow snowpack.

With a warming trend until Friday and no storms headed our way in the foreseeable future, this new snow will be changing in many ways before it is buried by our next dose of snow.  We'll keep monitoring the snow that is out there, and you should all keep your fingers crossed that the winter can turn around.  For now, 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 and that your remember how to use it.  

recent observations

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

Photo: 1/22 New snow and the affects of wind on No Name yesterday afternoon

Photo: Storm Slab sitting on top of weak sugary facets.  Much of this snow was moved around by winds that followed the storm and formed wind slabs near treeline and above.

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

Weather and CURRENT CONDITIONS
weather summary

Though this morning is starting out very chilly, today will warm up quite a bit and a warming trend will continue through Thursday.  Models agree that a storm system will stay to our north Friday, but it will still cause winds to pick up and temperatures to cool off for us.  Though there's always a chance it could dig farther south than anticipated, it doesn't look to hold much moisture, unfortunately.    

Weather observations from the Wheeler Peak Wilderness between 9000 ft. and 13000 ft.
0600 temperature: 8.3 deg. F.
Max. temperature in the last 24 hours: 22.7 deg. F.
Average wind direction during the last 24 hours: W
Average wind speed during the last 24 hours: 13 mph
Maximum wind gust in the last 24 hours: 42 mph
New snowfall in the last 24 hours: 0 inches
Total snow depth: 20 inches
Two-Day Mountain Weather Forecast Produced in partnership with the Albuquerque NWS
For 9000 ft. to 10000 ft.
Tuesday Tuesday Night Wednesday
Weather: Mostly Sunny Mostly Clear Mostly Sunny
Temperatures: 29-34 deg. F. 5-10 deg. F. 38-43 deg. F.
Wind Direction: NW W W
Wind Speed: 5-10 up to 10 5-15
Expected snowfall: 0 in. 0 in. 0 in.
For 11000 ft. to 13000 ft.
Tuesday Tuesday Night Wednesday
Weather: Mostly Sunny Mostly Clear Mostly Sunny
Temperatures: 18-25 deg. F. 8 deg. F. 29-35 deg. F.
Wind Direction: NW W W
Wind Speed: 5-10 5-15 5-15
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.