THIS AVALANCHE ADVISORY EXPIRED ON January 5, 2018 @ 5:25 am
Avalanche Advisory published on January 4, 2018 @ 5:25 am
Issued by Andy Bond - Taos Avalanche Center

Avalanche danger continues to be LOW at all elevations.  Use normal caution when traveling in the backcountry today. Watch for areas of deeper snow above 11,000' on northerly aspects where it's still possible to find stiff surface slabs resting on top of weak faceted snow.

1. Low

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

1. Low

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

1. Low

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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 ?
    Certain
    Very Likely
    Likely
    Possible
    Unlikely
  • Size ?
    Historic
    Very Large
    Large
    Small

Triggering an avalanche today is unlikely, as most slopes do not have 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 previous wind events have  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

The snowpack in the Sangre de Cristo's in New Mexico is thin, highly variable and wind effected. The last two weeks of high pressure has been faceting out our snowpack where snow continues to remain on higher elevation northerly slopes.  Other aspects are back to bare ground or patches of snow.  It's a very weak snowpack, but we lack continuous cohessive slabs over weak faceted snow.  We'll continue to be in LOW avalanche danger until we get more snow to cap these weak layers, but that also means poor backcountry conditions for skiing or riding.  If you find yourself out in the backcountry look for areas of deeper snow where you find strong over weak snow.  Although unlikely to trigger an avalanche, even a small avalanche will be painful with lots of ground hazards. 

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. Skiing and riding have been difficult, with better options being to hop on the mountain bike or continue to finish up home projects.  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 before this year.    

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 next week.  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 Avalanche.org.

Weather and CURRENT CONDITIONS
weather summary

Mild and sunny weather will remain with us to finish out the work week.  Winds will be light out of the NW.  Overnight temperatures will be dropping well below freezing.  The potential storm this weekend is trending drier for us in the last couple of model runs, with a couple of inches possible over our mountains Saturday night.  Another storm looks to follow in the middle of the week.  As is usually case with weather forecasts, the details are a little fuzzy at this time.   

Weather observations from the Wheeler Peak Wilderness between 9000 ft. and 13000 ft.
0600 temperature: 27.3 deg. F.
Max. temperature in the last 24 hours: 30.7 deg. F.
Average wind direction during the last 24 hours: WSW
Average wind speed during the last 24 hours: 18 mph
Maximum wind gust in the last 24 hours: 37 mph
New snowfall in the last 24 hours: 0 inches
Total snow depth: 5.8 inches
Two-Day Mountain Weather Forecast Produced in partnership with the Albuquerque NWS
For 9000 ft. to 10000 ft.
Thursday Thursday Night Friday
Weather: Partly Cloudy in the morning then clearing Mostly Clear Mostly Sunny
Temperatures: 45 deg. F. 12-17 deg. F. 46-51 deg. F.
Wind Direction: NW W W
Wind Speed: 0-5 0-10 0-10
Expected snowfall: 0 in. 0 in. 0 in.
For 11000 ft. to 13000 ft.
Thursday Thursday Night Friday
Weather: Partly Cloudy in the morning then clearing Mostly Clear Mostly Sunny
Temperatures: 31-39 deg. F. 17 deg. F. 34-42 deg. F.
Wind Direction: NW NW NW
Wind Speed: 5-10 5-10 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.