Avalanche Advisory published on January 3, 2018 @ 5:39 am
Issued by Andy Bond - Taos Avalanche Center

Another day of LOW avalanche danger for our mountains.  It is unlikely that you will trigger a dangerous avalanche as most slopes do not contain enough snow. Isolated pockets of deeper snow exists on northwest through northeast aspects above 11,000'.  Use caution if you find yourself in wind drifted snow, with stiff surface slabs that are able to support your weight.  In most cases these slabs are on top of weak faceted snow.

1. Low


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

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.
    Generally safe avalanche conditions. Watch for unstable snow on isolated terrain features.
  • 1. Low
  • 2. Moderate
  • 3. Considerable
  • 4. High
  • 5. Extreme
Avalanche Problem 1: Normal Caution
  • Type ?
  • Aspect/Elevation ?
  • Likelihood ?
    Very Likely
  • Size ?
    Very Large

Triggering an avalanche today is unlikely, as most slopes are not holding enough snow to avalanche. Use normal caution and safe travel protocols when traveling in the backcountry.  Snow coverage is confined to north facing slopes above 11,000'.  Any potential avalanche hazard would be found on northwest through northeast aspects, where isolated surface slabs from wind events have been formed atop weak faceted snow.  These slabs are found in areas of deeper snow pockets and could produce only a small avalanche at this time. 

advisory discussion

With the overwhelming lack of snow, avoiding avalanches today is simple.  Most slopes are back to bare ground or discontinuous patches of snow.  Any avalanche danger that does exist can be found above treeline on northwest through northeast slopes, where slabs of harder, wind blown snow exist in pockets below ridgelines and in gullies.  If you are able to stand on top of the snow's surface, or if you are punching through firm snow, then you have found one of these pockets.  For the most part, slabs in these places sit atop weak sugary snow near the ground.  Where this slab/weak layer combination exists, the potential is there for a small surface slab to step down into deeper weaker layers.  Any avalanche would be small, but with limited snow coverage lots of ground hazards still exist.  

To say it's been a rough season down here in northern New Mexico is probably an understatement.  Conditions right now feel more like October than they do January as most of the snow has stayed well to our north as many you of know. It's hard to write about avalanche problems or the snowpack when we currently don't have much to talk about.  During this prolonged dry period a lot of talk in town has focused on how historic this season has been for all the wrong reasons.   

We are fortunate that we have weather records dating back to 1967 that were taken by Taos Ski Patrol from the Poco Gusto weather station at 10,860' . In 2010 a Snotel weather station was installed at 11,057' within our forecast area under chair 2 at TSV.  In taking the time to look at the weather data it's hard to find a year dating back to 1967 that has started off with this little snow.  Over the 50 years of historical weather data,  the average height of snow (HS) recorded on January 1st at the Poco Weather station is 44.3".  Currently we sit at a whooping 2"! The much talked about glory years of the early 90's saw impressive snow totals with the 90-91 season having the highest recorded height of snow at the end of December ringing in at 98".  The 92-93 season started off slower but finished at the end of March with the highest recorded snow height at 130".  Many people compare this years slow start to 1995-96 (HS 24"), but that's only recent memory.  For those of you who have been here a long time, you're selective memory might have forgotten about 1976-77 (HS 17") to find our lowest recorded height of snow on January 1st.    

The slow start to our season will impact us in many ways, that we'll talk about in the coming days before we hopefully look to get back into the storm track.  We'll have a lot of catching up to do with the more recent years in memory. Hopefully that starts this weekend!


If you find yourself traveling elsewhere in search of a deeper snowpack, be sure to check out the local avalanche advisory on

weather summary

High clouds and mild temperatures are in store the next couple of days.  Winds will be light to moderate out of the west today.  We'll finish the work week off with mild temperatures before we see our first shot at snow for 2018.  Precipitation amounts are forecasted right now to be light, with 2 to 4" possible Saturday Night through Sunday.  Another storm behind this one could also make it's way south with hopefully more moisture.  These storms are still a ways away but well take any positive news for some needed moisture.  At least it looks like the ridge of high pressure is breaking down bringing with it better chances of storms.

Weather observations from the Wheeler Peak Wilderness between 9000 ft. and 13000 ft.
0600 temperature: 24.3 deg. F.
Max. temperature in the last 24 hours: 25.9 deg. F.
Average wind direction during the last 24 hours: NW
Average wind speed during the last 24 hours: 9 mph
Maximum wind gust in the last 24 hours: 37 mph
New snowfall in the last 24 hours: 0 inches
Total snow depth: 7.6 inches
Two-Day Mountain Weather Forecast Produced in partnership with the Albuquerque NWS
For 9000 ft. to 10000 ft.
Wednesday Wednesday Night Thursday
Weather: Partly Cloudy Partly Cloudy Partly Cloudy
Temperatures: 42 deg. F. 16-21 deg. F. 46 deg. F.
Wind Direction: W W W
Wind Speed: 5-10 5-15 0-5
Expected snowfall: 0 in. 0 in. 0 in.
For 11000 ft. to 13000 ft.
Wednesday Wednesday Night Thursday
Weather: Partly Cloudy Partly Cloudy Patly Cloudy
Temperatures: 30-37 deg. F. 19 deg. F. 32-39 deg. F.
Wind Direction: W NW NW
Wind Speed: 5-15 5-15 5-10
Expected snowfall: 0 in. 0 in. 0 in.

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.