THIS AVALANCHE ADVISORY EXPIRED ON January 28, 2018 @ 6:03 am
Avalanche Advisory published on January 27, 2018 @ 6:03 am
Issued by Hannah McGowan - Taos Avalanche Center

Avalanche danger is MODERATE near and above treeline, where human triggered persistent slab avalanches are possible.   Poor snowpack structure exists on NW through E aspects after the most recent (1/21) storm capped facets or preexisting persistent slabs with over a foot of snow.  Generally safe avalanche conditions exist below treeline, where there is not enough snow to avalanche. Pay attention to signs of instability and evaluate snow and terrain on a slope by slope basis to identify 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 treeline and above.  In these zones the 1/21 snow capped weak, uncohesive facets or added an additional burden to the persistent slabs that already existed.  Persistent slab instability is incredibly variable right now, so evaluate terrain slope by slope.  Places where the most recent snow fell on much deeper snow, with older slab/facet combinations, are the most suspect.  However anywhere with a strong-over-weak structure is worth your awareness.  You can avoid the most suspect areas by sticking to slopes that are less than 35 degrees.  Pay attention to obvious signs of instability like shooting cracks, whumpfing, and collapsing.  Most avalanches today would be small, though in places with deeper snow they could be larger.  Any avalanche right now would cause serious injury or death, with so many ground hazards still present.  

 

advisory discussion

Backcountry travel with skis on is possible today, but its certainly not for the faint of heart. If you were looking for an easy way to trash your new touring setup, look no further.  That being said, I think we're all grateful for the improvement in travel that came with the most recent snow!

Strong winds yesterday- including gusts into the 70's- moved even more of the 1/21 snow around.  Though much of this most recent snow has begun to settle out, a bit of fluff was still available for transport before this wind event, and it now exists as 10-20 cm of hard wind slab in certain areas.  To identify these places, look for smooth, wind drifted snow with firm, maybe even supportable, surfaces.  A small, superficial avalanche in these new wind slabs is not out of the question, but the main concern remains with the possibility of deeper persistent slab istability.  

NW through E aspects near treeline and above is where the most recent snow capped a snowpack made of facets to the ground in many places, making a very fragile snowpack structure.  In isolated pockets of these aspects above treeline, older slab/facet combinations were also topped with this new snow, and these are the most concerning slopes in our backcountry.  A much deeper and very weak snowack structure has existed in these places for a while and is now even more stressed by the new snow and windloading.  It may be hard to identify where these slopes are, so dig into the snow to evauate the snowpack structure as you travel.  Pay attention to obvious signs of instability like shooting cracks, whumpfing, and collapsing and evaluate terrain slope by slope basis since the snowpack is highly variable.  Staying away from slopes that are steeper than 35 degrees is the simplest way to stay safe today.  Any avalanche could be tragic with the amount of ground hazards present.  

 

...In case you forgot, 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 are 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

Yesterday's strong winds laid down overnight and light winds can be expected today and tomorrow.  Today and the week that follows will feature mosty sunny weather with temperatures in the upper 30's and lower 40's.  Our next hope for snow looks to be in the first few days of February, so hopefully you can keep busy with summertime activities until at least then.

Weather observations from the Wheeler Peak Wilderness between 9000 ft. and 13000 ft.
0600 temperature: 7.12 deg. F.
Max. temperature in the last 24 hours: 25.9 deg. F.
Average wind direction during the last 24 hours: SW
Average wind speed during the last 24 hours: 24 mph
Maximum wind gust in the last 24 hours: 39 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.
Saturday Saturday Night Sunday
Weather: Mostly Sunny Partly Cloudy Mostly Sunny
Temperatures: 32-37 deg. F. 10-15 deg. F. 38-43 deg. F.
Wind Direction: W NW NW
Wind Speed: Up to 15 Up to 15 Up to 15
Expected snowfall: 0 in. 0 in. 0 in.
For 11000 ft. to 13000 ft.
Saturday Saturday Night Sunday
Weather: Mostly Sunny Partly Cloudy Mostly Sunny
Temperatures: 22-28 deg. F. 13 deg. F. 27-34 deg. F.
Wind Direction: W NW NW
Wind Speed: 5-15 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.