THIS AVALANCHE ADVISORY EXPIRED ON January 6, 2018 @ 5:51 am
Avalanche Advisory published on January 5, 2018 @ 5:51 am
Issued by Hannah McGowan - Taos Avalanche Center

Avalanche danger continues to be LOW at all elevations.  Use normal caution while traveling in the backcountry today.  Watch for areas of deeper snow above 11,000' on northerly aspects, where it's still possible to find firm surface slabs resting 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 ?
    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 pockets of deeper snow and could produce only a small avalanche at this time. 

advisory discussion

Our snowpack is thin, highly variable and wind affected in the New Mexico's Sangre de Cristos.  Unfortunately this makes for poor (or nonexistant) backcountry skiing and riding conditions.  Snow continues to exist on higher elevation northerly slopes, though other aspects are back to bare ground or patches of snow.  The last two weeks of high pressure have continued to allow our shallow snowpack to facet out.  Though we have a very weak snowpack, 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.  If you find yourself traveling in the backcountry, be wary of areas of deeper snow where you find strong over weak layers.  Although unlikely to trigger an avalanche, even a small avalanche will be painful with lots of ground hazards.

This winter has been breaking records in all the wrong ways.  In the last 50 years at TSV, this is by far the lowest height of snow measured on the first of the year: 2" compared to an average of 44.3 inches!  Only one other year has come close to such a departure from average, which was the 1976-77 season with 17" on the ground to start the calendar year.  We're currently at 16% of average for snow water equivalent!  No one can say with confidence whether or not the winter can turn around, but for now the best we can do is keep an eye on the potential snowfall forecasted for Saturday night.  Its been an emotional rollercoaster since this pattern shift arrived in the 10 day forecast.  At first the models agreed and significant snowfall looked promising.  Then model runs started to look drier and drier, only to turn back to looking slightly more hopeful with our mountains more directly in the storm path.  As it is now, it looks like we could get a few inches of snow Saturday night, with skies clearing Sunday.  Another storm could follow close behind, arriving midweek.  Maybe we'll get some relief from the high and dry conditions we've been stuck in, but we'll just have to wait and see.  Until it changes, take it as an invitation to spend time in the sunshine climbing, running, wearing Tshirts-- whatever you do when its not ski season.   

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, sunny weather and light NW winds will continue today and tomorrow, with overnight temperatures below freezing.  In the last couple of model runs, it looks like we're back to getting more of a direct hit from the forecasted weekend storm.   A few inches of snow is possible in our mountains Saturday night, with moderate to strong winds.  Another storm looks to follow in the middle of the week, though the details are too far out to say anything for certain.   

Weather observations from the Wheeler Peak Wilderness between 9000 ft. and 13000 ft.
0600 temperature: 22 deg. F.
Max. temperature in the last 24 hours: 38 deg. F.
Average wind direction during the last 24 hours: NW
Average wind speed during the last 24 hours: 11.3 mph
Maximum wind gust in the last 24 hours: 15.5 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.
Friday Friday Night Saturday
Weather: Mostly Sunny in the morning then Partly Cloudy Partly Cloudy Partly Cloudy
Temperatures: 47 deg. F. 21-26 deg. F. 48 deg. F.
Wind Direction: W W W
Wind Speed: 0-10 0-10 5-10
Expected snowfall: 0 in. 0 in. 0 in.
For 11000 ft. to 13000 ft.
Friday Friday Night Saturday
Weather: Mostly Sunny in the morning then Partly Cloudy Partly Cloudy Partly Cloudy
Temperatures: 35-41 deg. F. 23 deg. F. 36-42 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.