THIS AVALANCHE ADVISORY EXPIRED ON January 27, 2018 @ 5:52 am
Avalanche Advisory published on January 26, 2018 @ 5:52 am
Issued by Andy Bond - Taos Avalanche Center

Human triggered persistent slab avalanches remain possible today.  MODERATE avalanche danger exists near and above treeline on north to east aspects where a poor snowpack structure exists.  Below treeline, there is not enough to avalanche. The snow from Sunday 1/21 is resting on top of fragile depth hoar near the ground and at higher elevations a deeper weak snowpack. Pay attention to signs of instability like shooting cracks and whumpfing. Evaluate snow and terrain carefully, identifying areas of concern.

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

Human triggered persistent slab avalanches remain possible today on northwest through east aspects near and above treeline.  The snow from Sunday (1/21) is becoming more of a cohesive slab that in many places is resting on top of weak and fragile depth hoar (sugary snow) near the ground. Strong west winds today will continue to load these suspect slopes.  You can stay safe, by avoiding terrain steeper than 35 degrees where you find this snowpack structure.  Pay attention to obvious signs of instability like shooting cracks, whumpfing, and collapsing as these are indications that you have found a slab/weak layer combination.

With new snow on the ground, it's hard to assess where the old snow was before Sunday. Every slope should be taken with caution as the old snow was not widespread.  We've seen several avalanches start mid-path or below rock bands.  Take the time to dig down into the slope or simply use your ski pole to identify where we have slab/weak layer combinations, looking for weak sugar-like snow near the ground.  Most avalanches would be small, but we do have areas above treeline where a deeper snowpack exists that could produce larger avalanches. Areas where you find a deeper snowpack, are most suspect with multiple faceted layers. Any avalanche right now would cause serious injury or death with lots of ground hazards still present.

The snow from Sunday (1/21) that is on top of depth hoar near the ground near treeline.

advisory discussion

Travel in the backcountry is still difficult, but is possible on skis.  It's still incredibly thin, and if you're getting out on your boards, if there not already "rock" skis, they will be very quickly.  With the shallow snowpack and no stiff slab to travel on, ski pen is all the way to the ground.  

Very strong west winds today averaging 30 to 40 mph gusting in the 70's will be plenty strong to transport the cold snow on shady and northerly aspects. Smaller wind slab avalanches can't be ruled out today.  The main concern is still persistent slab avalanches with a thin, weak snowpack that can't handle much weight.  The snow that's not blown to Oklahoma can be expected to drift in areas that had previously drifted in snow from earlier wind events found on north to east aspects.  This can be found in cross-loaded gullies, and concave bowls that are able to collect snow. These are also the slopes that are most suspect containing multiple weak faceted layers and depth hoar near the ground.  If you find slopes with a deeper snowpack, proceed with caution as it's possible to trigger an avalanche from below or from a large distance away.

We are a storm or two behind our neighbors to the north in southern Colorado, but the recent tragic events outside of Silverton demonstrate that even a small avalanche can be tragic.  We also share a similar thin, weak snowpack with persistent weak layers on or near the ground.  These are challenging times, as north to east aspects are the slopes where you can find enough snow to slide on. These are also the slopes that are most suspect.  With not a ton of great alternative terrain to recreate on, we'll continue to have to be patient.         

The southwest has had a low snow year so far.

recent observations

Widespread collapsing and shooting cracks continue to be observed on slopes north through east slopes that had snow on them previously.   We went through a natural avalanche cycle on Sunday during the storm on northerly aspects near and above treeline.  Some of this debris is still visible.  Warm temperatures is doing a number on our thin snowpack.  Sun crusts have formed on solar aspects and we have seen a lot of settlement.  Cold snow still remains on our northerly and shady slopes.  Stability tests indicate that the snow from Sunday is able to propagate on the faceted weak layers near the ground. 

 Photo: Large Depth Hoar (Sugary Snow) like this is the major culprit of our instability 

Weather and CURRENT CONDITIONS
weather summary

A dry Pacific cold front will make it's way through New Mexico today.  Temperatures are starting off this morning in the teens, and won't be rising much more during the day.  The bigger impact will be the west winds, where we've already had gusts over night in the 70's.  West winds will remain strong during the day before dropping tonight.  Overnight temperatures will drop back down into the single digits.  It's looking like the end of January into the beginning of February will be dry, with warmer temperatures and plenty of sunshine.  

Weather observations from the Wheeler Peak Wilderness between 9000 ft. and 13000 ft.
0600 temperature: 12.6 deg. F.
Max. temperature in the last 24 hours: 28.2 deg. F.
Average wind direction during the last 24 hours: WSW
Average wind speed during the last 24 hours: 27 mph
Maximum wind gust in the last 24 hours: 71 mph
New snowfall in the last 24 hours: 0 inches
Total snow depth: 16 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 Mostly Clear Mostly Sunny
Temperatures: 30 deg. F. 5-11 deg. F. 34 deg. F.
Wind Direction: W W W
Wind Speed: 10-30 5-15 5-15
Expected snowfall: 0 in. 0 in. 0 in.
For 11000 ft. to 13000 ft.
Friday Friday Night Saturday
Weather: Partly Cloudy Mostly Clear Mostly Sunny
Temperatures: 18-24 deg. F. 8 deg. F. 23-28 deg. F.
Wind Direction: W W W
Wind Speed: 15-35 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.