Taos Ski Valley Region

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Re: Taos Ski Valley Region

Postby JBella » Fri Dec 16, 2016 11:29 am

This storm came in strong, the past two days we saw large lenticulars forming above the mountains periodically, yesterday on Chama Pass near Hopewell we observed 40-70+mph winds scouring the snow down to shiny, smooth and hard windslabs and depositing snow into 2-4' drifts on lee sides of terrain features. This morning snow began in Taos around 5am, when the front hit the mountains heavy snow began accumulating all along the range, with snowflakes as large as golf balls falling! Now at 10:15 it's settled to normal storm conditions. Moderate winds are swirling around the valleys and stronger winds are moving snow along ridgelines and alpine peaks. I expect storm totals by tomorrow night to be in the 10-25" range, this along with moderate sw and westerly winds will create deep drifts and cornices beneath ridges and on leeward slopes, and around terrain features in mid and lower elevations. These new deposits will develop atop already precarious windslabs from the last storm cycle, and the new storm snow will add weight to brittle slabs sandwiched between advanced facet layers which have developed during the past four weeks. There are already known weaknesses on north and easterly aspects at all elevations, and on westerly aspects below treeline. With the new layers and added weight, avalanche conditions will be prime for the next few days, increasing throughout today and tonight. Even with the modest snowpack we have , it is still thin in most areas; exposed rocks, stumps etc. will be hidden beneath enough snow to make a slope appear rideable when it isn't ready yet. Approach open areas at all elevations with caution, and be diligent regarding route selection within and beneath steep avalanche terrain at all elevations and aspects for the next few days.
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Re: Taos Ski Valley Region

Postby scotthsu » Sat Dec 17, 2016 8:46 am

Taos Avalanche Center posting picked up by NWS:

Avalanche Warning
NMZ513-180100-

BULLETIN - IMMEDIATE BROADCAST REQUESTED
AVALANCHE WARNING
TAOS AVALANCHE CENTER
RELAYED BY NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE ALBUQUERQUE NM
559 AM MST SAT DEC 17 2016

THE FOLLOWING MESSAGE IS TRANSMITTED AT THE REQUEST OF THE TAOS
AVALANCHE CENTER.

THE TAOS AVALANCHE CENTER IN TAOS HAS ISSUED A BACKCOUNTRY
AVALANCHE WARNING.

* TIMING...IN EFFECT THROUGH 6 PM MST TODAY.

* AFFECTED AREA...WHEELER PEAK WILDERNESS COLUMBINE HONDO
WILDERNESS ABOVE 9000 FEET.

* AVALANCHE DANGER...AVALANCHE DANGER WILL REMAIN HIGH THROUGH
TODAY.

* REASON/IMPACTS...HEAVY SNOW COMBINED WITH WIND WILL LIKELY
CREATE WIDESPREAD AREAS OF UNSTABLE SNOW. BOTH HUMAN TRIGGERED
AND NATURAL AVALANCHES ARE LIKELY. STAY OFF OF SLOPES STEEPER
THAN 30 DEGREES.

THIS WARNING DOES NOT APPLY TO SKI AREAS WHERE AVALANCHE HAZARD
REDUCTION MEASURES ARE PERFORMED.

CONSULT WWW.TAOSAVALANCHECENTER.ORG FOR MORE DETAILED
INFORMATION.

SIMILAR AVALANCHE DANGER MAY EXIST AT LOCATIONS OUTSIDE THE
COVERAGE AREA OF THIS OR ANY AVALANCHE CENTER.
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Re: Taos Ski Valley Region

Postby JBella » Wed Dec 21, 2016 12:25 am

scotthsu wrote:Taos Avalanche Center posting picked up by NWS:

Avalanche Warning
NMZ513-180100-

BULLETIN - IMMEDIATE BROADCAST REQUESTED
AVALANCHE WARNING
TAOS AVALANCHE CENTER
RELAYED BY NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE ALBUQUERQUE NM
559 AM MST SAT DEC 17 2016

THE FOLLOWING MESSAGE IS TRANSMITTED AT THE REQUEST OF THE TAOS
AVALANCHE CENTER.

THE TAOS AVALANCHE CENTER IN TAOS HAS ISSUED A BACKCOUNTRY
AVALANCHE WARNING.

* TIMING...IN EFFECT THROUGH 6 PM MST TODAY.

* AFFECTED AREA...WHEELER PEAK WILDERNESS COLUMBINE HONDO
WILDERNESS ABOVE 9000 FEET.

* AVALANCHE DANGER...AVALANCHE DANGER WILL REMAIN HIGH THROUGH
TODAY.

* REASON/IMPACTS...HEAVY SNOW COMBINED WITH WIND WILL LIKELY
CREATE WIDESPREAD AREAS OF UNSTABLE SNOW. BOTH HUMAN TRIGGERED
AND NATURAL AVALANCHES ARE LIKELY. STAY OFF OF SLOPES STEEPER
THAN 30 DEGREES.

THIS WARNING DOES NOT APPLY TO SKI AREAS WHERE AVALANCHE HAZARD
REDUCTION MEASURES ARE PERFORMED.

CONSULT http://WWW.TAOSAVALANCHECENTER.ORG FOR MORE DETAILED
INFORMATION.

SIMILAR AVALANCHE DANGER MAY EXIST AT LOCATIONS OUTSIDE THE
COVERAGE AREA OF THIS OR ANY AVALANCHE CENTER.



I'm glad the avalanche danger, in the mentioned designated wilderness areas, decreased at 6pm. And that, 12+ hours earlier, they knew it would.
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Re: Taos Ski Valley Region

Postby JBella » Wed Dec 21, 2016 9:36 am

There was a large lenticular formation above the mountains east of Taos this morning. Light to moderate westerly winds are blowing across the ridgelines in the higher elevations, the air is calm in the lower reaches of the region. Clouds like what I saw this morning form when a steady flow of air and moisture from the west rises as it approaches the continental divide, then drops to the east of the mountains as elevation decreases. Moisture condenses at the crest of the air current. This usually precedes precipitation by a day or two, and wind is usually an influential factor with these storms. A low pressure system currently spinning west of Baja is sending moisture from the south towards Arizona, and the jet stream is flowing as a strong west-east current across the New Mexico border north through Colorado. Things are looking good for this weekend beginning tomorrow afternoon and continuing through Sunday night, with two or three waves of strong snowfall and accumulation, I think.

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Re: Taos Ski Valley Region

Postby JBella » Wed Dec 21, 2016 8:34 pm

Sin Nombre slide, sometime during the 17-18th. Video from today;

https://vimeo.com/196671004
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Re: Taos Ski Valley Region

Postby scotthsu » Wed Dec 21, 2016 9:26 pm

wow, that's a huge crown.

regarding my previous post, I was curious how they worked things out to get the NWS to post their avalanche bulletin.
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Re: Taos Ski Valley Region

Postby JBella » Thu Dec 22, 2016 8:29 am

Some obs from yesterday at Williams Lake;

Dense recent snow was supportive in the middle of open snowfields, lighter and looser closer to rocks and trees. No bull's eye collapses or cracking on the route we took west of the Williams Lake trail.

East aspect northwest of the lake; above 5-7 cm of advanced stage 1-2mm dh on the ground, there were 7 distinct layers, storm slabs consisting of stiff 1f, 4f and f slabs between compressed surface hoar and suncrusts. The upper two layers, the storm slabs from last week's snowfall were well bonded. Getting into the middle and lower layers shear strengths at each interface were brittle yet strong enough for the entire snowpack to hold together and collapse into the basal depth hoar before the November and early December storm layers sheared apart.

Temps were warm, in the mid 30s during the afternoon. Light winds at times in the middle elevations, stronger west winds in the higher elevations produced occasional plumes and minutes of drifting along ridges on Lake Fork, Fairview Mtn. and Kachina Peak.

Mild weather the past two days has helped the potential energy in the snowpack adjust, and the recent natural cycle has run it's course, however there exists considerable potential to trigger a deep persistent slab that could propagate across an entire slope and run a long distance - thin spots along the edges of these slabs are likely trigger points as well as deeper pockets near the middle of open areas where a hard turn could send enough force into the lower snowpack to initiate slab failure and propagation. With the approaching storm and winds how they are, temps are good for snowfall the next few days - the added weight if accumulations are significant could be enough to release slopes that haven't run yet, or step down into older layers.

https://vimeo.com/196685784

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Surface hoar growth along the lower reaches of the Williams Lake trail
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Sin Nombre, December 17-18 avalanche
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Last edited by JBella on Sat Dec 24, 2016 10:15 pm, edited 3 times in total.
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Re: Taos Ski Valley Region

Postby JBella » Thu Dec 22, 2016 11:01 am

The storm came in strong! Snowfall in the lower elevations began around 5am and at 10 there's 3-4 inches on the ground. Up high, light/moderate but steady southwesterly winds are transporting some snow onto leeward slopes. The fresh snow is dense and temps are warm, it's bonding well to yesterday's surface snow. Watch loading and new accumulation amounts during the storm and consider how the new snow is interacting with and affecting the lower layers.
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Re: Taos Ski Valley Region

Postby JBella » Thu Dec 22, 2016 7:53 pm

Storm update at 6:45pm;

5 inches in Taos, 16 at 10k in Twining, 18-20+ in the mid to upper elevations on Frazer Mountain.
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Re: Taos Ski Valley Region

Postby JBella » Fri Dec 23, 2016 10:06 am

At 9am; 1.5 additional inches in town, 2 at 10k, 3-4 up high on Frazer.

Storm totals are significant, there was and is heavy loading on leeward ridges and cornices will be falling today. Storm slab releases are likely, both triggered and natural today, with the real possibility that a soft slab will step down into buried persistent deep slabs on slopes that haven't yet slid during the recent cycles. Travel cautiously - I would recommend avoiding steep, open terrain and runouts beneath obvious slide paths. With the recent storm snow covering many obstacles, tree skiing is on! For example the south and easterly slopes above and close to Bull of the Woods pasture and the yurt will be prime low-angle terrain to consider for the near future.
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Re: Taos Ski Valley Region

Postby JBella » Sat Dec 24, 2016 10:01 pm

Found some interesting stuff today, in the eastern canyon draining south from Long Canyon's west ridge. Extremely deep wind drifts in this canyon ~ on isolated southwest and west-southwest facing slopes, one pit site was 121" at the deepest I measured. As I was digging I wondered if I had found an avalanche deposit or deep drift, after digging and isolating a few layers I determined it is wind deposited snow - most of the layers were well defined and subtly yet consistently harder the deeper I got, which was as deep as I was comfortable going at this site. Layer shears were clean on buried compressed surface hoar and suncrusts, and the weak layer on the compression test I performed was a hidden surface hoar layer within the December 16-17th storm slab. This was a southwest aspect at approximately 9700';

https://vimeo.com/196991024

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Temps were warm, it was like Spring on my afternoon ascent in this south-draining canyon. Winds were moving snow on Wheeler and Kachina at times;

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Heavy snow on the trees was melting and it was like rain falling, lots of wet pockets dispersed among dry powdery snow in the shade.

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Average depths in the local area were 2-3 feet, I found the site in the video and a few others where wind had deposited some amazingly deep pillows. One theory - the north-south canyons north of Hondo River act like a sluice and catch snow when storm winds are blowing up Hondo Canyon from the west, and once trapped in the canyons there is nowhere for the snow to go so it is deposited between steep rock outcrops.
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Re: Taos Ski Valley Region

Postby JBella » Sat Dec 24, 2016 10:49 pm

Controlled slides inbounds in the Pierre's region;

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Re: Taos Ski Valley Region

Postby JBella » Sun Dec 25, 2016 10:55 am

Last night's storm was another strong one, came in with strong southwesterly winds beginning at about 9pm last night, then picking up after midnight before the snow began. This morning there is about 10" fresh at 10k, and 12" in the middle elevations on Frazer Mtn. Significant windloading. The snow is dryer and not as dense as the previous storm's snow. Today, triggered storm slab releases are likely, slab avalanches within Friday's snow are probable on certain north and east facing slopes, and step downs into deeper buried persistent slabs are a considerable danger. Diligent and careful route planning and selection are important - dig around along your route and pay attention to localized observations.

The season began dry, suddenly we have a deep and layered snowpack with a high water content, both depth and water are close to average for the end of December.

Update at 2pm - strong wind throughout the morning has moved significant amounts of snow around and continues to. Significant loading behind terrain features and on lee sides of ridges as well as crossloaded slopes and gullies. Hard slabs are developing.
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Re: Taos Ski Valley Region

Postby JBella » Sat Dec 31, 2016 12:20 pm

The snowpack has been improving, in depth and stability. It is becoming less likely to trigger small slides, and more likely that any slides that do release will be large and consequential - even with a deeper snowpack and increasing stability overall there still exists a layered pack with dry, brittle slabs near the bottom sandwiched between thin compressed surface hoar crystals, and denser storm slabs near the top, and the widespread layer of loose basal depth hoar. Snowpack depth and water content is slightly above average for the end of December, the last round of storms was significant. Yesterday we toured onto the southeast region of Fairview Mountain via the Lake Fork basin. We observed pencil hard windslabs scattered among soft and wavy wind deposited pockets, with steady winds moving snow along west-east ridgelines up high and blowing from the northeast up into the basin. Near and above treeline most of the powder has been blown around and recycled into various types of mid-season surface snow. Riding conditions were smooth yet variable, and rocks are still exposed in most areas. There were lots of rollers that ran down south and southeast facing slopes on Thursday. Yesterday was cooler, although below 11k the wind wasn't as strong and periods of warm and calm were prevalent throughout the day.

On Wednesday we toured beneath Kachina's east side, to the pond and down through the trees towards El Funko. The powder was deeper and dryer here than along the Williams Lake trail, riding conditions were great though there were still lots of obstacles all around.

Overall conditions are improving, there is a moderate avalanche danger on most aspects and elevations with the exceptions being isolated areas above treeline where winds have scoured the slopes to the ground, and to the other side of the spectrum there are various open faces that haven't slid yet where deep persistent slab avalanches may be easily triggered from thin weak points. I wouldn't recommend travelling across these open slopes (like Kachina's east side runouts and Lake Fork's open basin), if you ride these lines find a good uproute and descend fast, following standard protocols like skiing the line one at a time and maintaining visual and audible contact within your group.

The next storm cycle begins today/tonight and will continue for several days. I expect modest snowfall amounts with snow coming in waves (creating in-storm layers) through Thursday.

Some pics from yesterday;

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Widespread surface hoar growth along the lower reaches of the Lake Fork of the Rio Hondo
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Wind was moving snow around in the basin
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Solar rollers on Fairview Mountain's south facing terrain
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Some tracks from Wednesday were visible on Lake Fork
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Skiing the southeast slopes of Fairview Mountain, on the lower flank of The Pyramid
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Surfing the Winter waves. Photo by Ray Rose
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Re: Taos Ski Valley Region

Postby Bob » Sun Jan 01, 2017 8:48 pm

^^^ It would be nice if the forum software had a "like" feature for posts like the one above.
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