THIS AVALANCHE ADVISORY EXPIRED ON January 30, 2018 @ 5:49 am
Avalanche Advisory published on January 29, 2018 @ 5:49 am
Issued by Andy Bond - Taos Avalanche Center

MODERATE avalanche danger continues to exist above treeline on NW to E aspects due to persistent slab avalanches.  It's on these slopes that you can find a weak and fragile snowpack with slab/weak layer combinations hoar.  LOW avalanche danger exists near and below treeline, where limited snow exists that's mostly facets. Pay attention to signs of instability and evaluate snow and terrain on a slope by slope basis to identify areas of concern.

2. Moderate

?

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

1. Low

?

Near Treeline
Generally safe avalanche conditions. Watch for unstable snow on isolated terrain features.

1. Low

?

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

Slopes of concern can be found on Northwest to East aspects above treeline. These are areas where you are most likely to trigger an avalanche on buried persistent weak layers on or near the ground.  Strong winds (gusting 70 MPH) on Friday 1/26 have formed hard wind slabs on the surface that are capping weak faceted snow. Supportable surface slabs can feel secure, but it's the weak faceted snow beneath that's the issue. Dig down onto the slope to assess whether the slope harbors these slab/weak layer combinations.  Continued observations of collapsing and shooting cracks is a good reminder that our snowpack is weak and fragile on specific slopes. 

Pay attention to obvious signs of instability like cracking and collapsing. Avoid slopes that feel hollow or drummy.  Continue to use good travel techniques, being mindful of steep slopes above. Most avalanches would be small, but any ride could cause serious injury in or thin shallow snowpack with lots of ground hazards present.     

advisory discussion

We're stuck in an all time historically bad winter that is shattering all types of records for lack of snow and warm temperatures.  It's looking like the start of February is going to continue this trend with no significant chances of snow in the long-term outlook.  Skiing and riding conditions are poor at best with breakable wind crusts, and lots of ground hazards present.  These are challenging times if you enjoy sliding on snow!

Believe it or not, we do have snow above treeline on North to East aspects that warrants caution.  Avalanches are becoming harder and harder to trigger since or last cycle a week ago, but the consequences remain serious.  Strong winds on Friday 1/26 have produced a hard wind slab on the surface in alpine terrain.  Beneath that we have weak and fragile faceted depth hoar on or near the ground.  Other slopes have a deeper snowpack with several slab/weak layer combinations that deserve caution. Check out this video from 1/27.  Dig down into the slope to assess whether the slab is able to propagate on any of these weak layers. With lots of spatial variability, every slope you plan to travel on should be approached with caution, as things can change quickly.

With another week or two of high pressure our snowpack will be quickly changing and "faceting out" with cold clear nights, and warm sunny days promoting strong temperature gradients in our shallow snowpack.  Near and below treeline the snowpack is mostly faceted snow that is of little concern right now.  We'll all be excited when we do see another storm make it's way to Northern New Mexico, but a weak faceted snowpack won't be able to hold much weight.  Even though we're approaching February, our conditions or more typical of an early season snowpack that we're accustomed to in November. A lot can change between now and then, but we could be looking at a more widespread avalanche cycle with a weak shallow snowpack continuing to exist on most slopes.      

recent observations

Strong WSW winds yesterday (Gusting 70 MPH) have left a pencil hard slab above treeline that is capping our snow from Sunday (1/21) . In other places the strong winds have scoured back to bare ground and further in others has left breakable wind crust.  Not great conditions to make a turn!  We are still experiencing loud collapsing whumpfing on north aspects above treeline.  Pretty much every slope we touched on a north aspect collapsed with shooting cracks well above us.  This is where we have a variable but poor snowpack structure with fragile depth hoar near the ground that is capped by some form of slabs.  We continue to see evidence of a natural avalanche cycle that occurred during the storm on Sunday 1/21.    Although triggering an avalanche is getting harder and harder, there's a very real spooky feeling when traveling on north aspects above treeline. Either way you slice it, all the ingredients are there for an avalanche breaking on or near the ground.

Other aspects are not as worrisome, and we are getting sun crusts on solar aspects and are quickly seeing our snowpack settle at lower elevations.  

Weather and CURRENT CONDITIONS
weather summary

Temperatures this morning are in the teens and twenties and will quickly warm up today. Temperatures should hover around freezing at 11,000' with moderate SW winds and ample sunshine today.  The long term outlook is not looking very promising with no significant chances of snow in the next week. 

Weather observations from the Wheeler Peak Wilderness between 9000 ft. and 13000 ft.
0600 temperature: 21 deg. F.
Max. temperature in the last 24 hours: 33 deg. F.
Average wind direction during the last 24 hours: SW
Average wind speed during the last 24 hours: 12 mph
Maximum wind gust in the last 24 hours: 28 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.
Monday Monday Night Tuesday
Weather: Mostly Sunny Mostly Clear Mostly Sunny
Temperatures: 40 deg. F. 23 deg. F. 30 deg. F.
Wind Direction: SW SW W
Wind Speed: 10-20 10-30 10-30
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: 32 deg. F. 17-22 deg. F. 19-24 deg. F.
Wind Direction: SW SW W
Wind Speed: 5-15 15-30 15-30
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.