Snowpack Summary published on October 28, 2020 @ 10:02 am
Issued by Andy Bond - Taos Avalanche Center

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Snowpack Discussion

Storm Recap:

An impressive storm Sunday October 25th into Wednesday has dropped 20 to 26 inches of snow with 2.5 to 3" of snow water equivalent (SWE) in the surrounding mountains around Taos. Winds were strong during the storm gusting 80 mph. I would expect we could find drifted snow upwards of 4' deep on the leeward sides of ridgelines at higher elevations.  Lesser amounts of 10 to 12" fell in the mountains around Santa Fe.  Lingering snow showers through Wednesday could see an additional 1 to 3 inches of snow fall in the mountains.



As exciting as it is to be getting significant snow for the first time of the season, nearly every fall in the U.S. avalanches catch eager riders and late-season hikers off-guard. Hunters traveling through the high country need to exercise caution on steep, snow covered terrain.

As quickly as the weather has changed, so to does the need to consider avalanches when traveling in our mountains now. Avalanches are possible in the mountains if you find snow on steep slopes.  When traveling on slopes think about the consequences of being caught in an avalanche.  Even a small ride has the potential to be dangerous with terrain traps and lots of natural obstacles on the ground. 

We'll quickly be returning to high pressure and more normal temperatures for this time of year into the beginning of November.  As the snow melts away in town, much of the snow that fell in our mountains will linger as we wait for our next snow storm. Unlike last year where we had an incredibly dry fall with very little snow on the ground, the snow from this storm will have the ability to turn into the basal facets that we are typically accustomed to in our mountains.

We will do another update if conditions warrant before our next storm. If you are getting out and recreating in the snow, send us an observation! Stay Safe and hopefully the snow will continue to fall as we move into November!

There are some great online avalanche trainings to help get your head back in the game.  

Below are some of the types of avalanches you may encounter during fall.


Storm Slab Avalanches are the release of a soft cohesive layer (a slab) composed of new snow that breaks within the storm snow or on the old snow surface. They often form when new snow falls with light winds or in wind-sheltered areas. They typically last for a few days. You can reduce your risk from Storm Slabs by waiting a day or two after a storm before venturing into steep terrain. Storm slabs are most dangerous on slopes with terrain traps like gullies or cliffs, or slopes that end in timber or scree fields.

Wind Slab Avalanches are where wind-drifted snow forms the cohesive layer (a slab). Wind typically transports snow from the upwind sides of terrain features and deposits snow on the downwind side. Drifted snow is often smooth and rounded, and sometimes sounds hollow. They form in specific areas leeward of terrain features. You can reduce your risk from Wind Slab avalanches by sticking to wind-sheltered or wind-scoured areas and avoiding drifted spots.

Loose Dry Avalanches are a release of dry, unconsolidated snow. They start at a point and entrain snow as they move downhill, forming a fan-shaped avalanche. Loose Dry avalanches are usually relatively harmless to people. They can be dangerous if they catch and carry you into or over terrain traps like gullies or cliffs, or slopes that end in timber or scree fields.


This snowpack summary applies only to backcountry areas. Click here for a map of the area. This snowpack summary describes general avalanche conditions and local variations always occur. This snowpack summary expires in 48 hours unless otherwise noted.