Taos Ski Valley/Wheeler Peak Region

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Re: Taos Ski Valley/Wheeler Peak Region

Postby JBella » Tue Nov 28, 2017 3:50 pm

Today's surprise storm brought up to 7 inches to the region, highest amounts near and above treeline on north through east aspects.
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Re: Taos Ski Valley/Wheeler Peak Region

Postby JBella » Thu Dec 07, 2017 11:35 am

Another surprise storm last night brought 1 - 2 inches to the region
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Re: Taos Ski Valley/Wheeler Peak Region

Postby JBella » Sat Jan 06, 2018 6:08 pm

William's Lake, high and dry awaiting tonight's storm, 3-7" predicted at the lake;

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The Pyramid, Fairview Mountain's east point, even higher and dryer;

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Kachina Peak, centered on the Easter Couloir, not even close to rideable;

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Re: Taos Ski Valley/Wheeler Peak Region

Postby JBella » Sun Jan 07, 2018 2:36 pm

Another fizzler, about an inch in the higher elevations last night. Gold Hill is, well was white this morning. Most of the fresh has melted by now

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Re: Taos Ski Valley/Wheeler Peak Region

Postby JBella » Sat Jan 13, 2018 9:55 am

The storm Wednesday night into Thursday morning, January 10-11 produced 1-4 inches with higher amounts as elevation increases. The snow was very light density, and temps have stayed pretty cold. There still isn't much of a snowpack, maybe some rideable windloaded pockets on ridgelines, where deeper layers do exist on shaded north through east aspects near and above treeline the snowpack is weak, brittle slabs above uncohesive depth hoar. This storm added another thin layer to be watchful of as more small storms cross this region during the near future.
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Re: Taos Ski Valley/Wheeler Peak Region

Postby JBella » Mon Jan 15, 2018 1:44 pm

January 14th at William's Lake. Last week's storm snow is holding with more typical temps than we've seen so far this Winter. There was 2-3 inches on the ice and around the lake. Although a still-dire snowpack exists across the area, some crossloaded gullies and depressions are filled in and may have enough snow to make a few turns, with caution as rocks will still be a concern. Where there is enough snow to ride, various storm layers are distinguishable and comprised of advanced-stage facets, the probability of triggering a small avalanche which could run onto exposed ground and rocks is considerable. Most other slopes do not have enough snow for avalanches to be a concern, there are a few hanging cornices on leeward aspects to be aware of when hiking below. The trail to Williams Lake has enough snow to ride most of the way down, I would not recommend this as rocks, roots, ice and other obstacles are present.

Lake Fork's eastern slopes from the lake;

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Sin Nombre's northern slopes and couloirs;

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The glacial moraine beneath Lake Fork;

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Fairview's southeast slopes;

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For those of you into hockey or figure skating, the Williams Lake Maintenance Crew was out shoveling snow off the ice;

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Re: Taos Ski Valley/Wheeler Peak Region

Postby Bob » Mon Jan 15, 2018 8:06 pm

JBella wrote:For those of you into hockey or figure skating, the Williams Lake Maintenance Crew was out shoveling snow off the ice;

:D
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Re: Taos Ski Valley/Wheeler Peak Region

Postby JBella » Wed Jan 17, 2018 6:31 pm

Not much new to report. There was some cold air in the vicinity yesterday, rime ice developed throughout the forest between 8 and 10.5k for a few hours. Today, there was less snow than a few days ago.

View southwards from the top of NM at 9:25am today;

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Re: Taos Ski Valley/Wheeler Peak Region

Postby JBella » Sun Jan 21, 2018 8:39 am

It's finally snowing, first significant storm of the calendar Winter. 4-7" so far with the highest amounts near treeline, the NWS is forecasting another 10-14" today and tonight. This should be enough to tip the scales into a considerable avalanche danger on north and east aspects where old snow exists, as well as crossloaded slopes and gullies that are holding weak, faceted and structured layers. Most south and westerly aspects will only have this storm snow present so avalanche potential on these slopes depends on locally accumulated snow and wind affect.
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Re: Taos Ski Valley/Wheeler Peak Region

Postby JBella » Mon Jan 22, 2018 12:36 am

At 1pm about 14" had accumulated at the bottom of the Bavarian path, moderate and at times heavy snowfall continued through the late evening. Temps cooled during the afternoon and winds picked up, there was significant windloading with eastward leading drifts forming on various terrain features, including vehicles in the parking lot. There's going to be some deep pockets tomorrow, immediate avalanche concerns are heavily windloaded features along ridges and beneath convex rollovers, and crossloaded gullies where storm slabs are developing above old, faceted weak layers including basal depth hoar, suncrusts and recently developed surface hoar. And rocks.

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Re: Taos Ski Valley/Wheeler Peak Region

Postby Kerry » Mon Feb 12, 2018 6:54 pm

Marc & I conducted an AIARE Rescue and Level 1 class at and near TSV on 8-11 Feb. Not enough snow to bc ski from/to the trailheads, but enough to hold a very productive class. Northerly off-piste pitches above 10k' generally have 25-60 cm snow depth. Summarizing the data from 3 instructor demo pits and 8 instructor-supervised pits, all on northerly pitches, I recommend higher than normal caution when we receive a good snow fall on top of the current snow. We consistently found SC failures in CT tests on top of the DH, which ranged from 3 mm @ TL to 9 mm in shaded <TL areas. Most PST and some ECT propagated on 5-9 mm DH and on .75 mm NSF below the wind crust formed during the last week of January. Some <TL tests were CTV(failed whiled cutting). One pit location had propagation above the test wall in snow that had not been isolated. Uphill ski cuts and hand shear tests were consistent with pit data. Collapses ("whumping") and cracks propagating from skis were observed. Interfaces of concern are top of the depth hoar (about 8-15 cm up from the ground) and also the underside of a wind crust that developed about 1/22-1/26 in the top of the last major storm (about 13 cm down in some areas).
Scheduling additional classes for the 5-8 Apr and 19-22 Apr, and possibly a rescue class on 12 Mar. PM me if interested.
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Re: Taos Ski Valley/Wheeler Peak Region

Postby JBella » Wed Feb 14, 2018 11:18 pm

Storm dynamics look good, southwest flow aloft. It was dumping in El Prado between 8 and 10pm, temps right around freezing and nickel-size wet flakes sticking to everything. Good chance the mountains will have upwards of 15 inches around treeline by sunrise. If I'm right, there will be a deep and heavy slab sitting above the various weak layers that have been developing this season, I expect the avalanche potential to rise above considerable. Of course following this season's trend of storms fizzling out is a possibility, it doesn't look like that will happen tonight, this is by all indications so far a strong Spring storm dropping snow above the weirdest snowpack New Mexico has seen for several decades. Diligence is recommended when considering route options and making decisions tomorrow, as is consideration of the thin snowpack and all the rocks that will be close to the snow surface.
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Re: Taos Ski Valley/Wheeler Peak Region

Postby JBella » Thu Feb 15, 2018 8:20 pm

By about noon there was 15" at the Bavarian, 10 at the St. Bernard. Below 9k accumulated depths decreased dramatically with elevation drops in Hondo Canyon. West through northerly winds were strong throughout the morning and early afternoon, moving and packing the fresh snow into dense but soft wind slabs. Lots of reactive slab activity inbounds, glide cracks propogating several feet through the new wind slabs. At 7pm the storm has mostly cleared from the area leaving a delicate and heavy slab above an already-weak, shallow snowpack. Avalanche potential will be in the red tomorrow and likely for a few days.

I got a few pics of some crowns in the West Basin after the TSV patrol ran their control routes, lots of slides ran the entire length of the chutes and deposited debris several feet deep around trees and in piles on the slopes.

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Natural fracture near the bottom of Lift 8
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Re: Taos Ski Valley/Wheeler Peak Region

Postby JBella » Tue Feb 27, 2018 1:42 pm

The recent storm cycle brought 2-3 feet during the past two weeks, overall the snowpack is still thin but now we have some rideable lines in the backcountry. A couple avalanche cycles have ran, however natural activity was minimal which is an indicator that existing instabilities have not been remediated. Now there is a precarious layering of various wind slabs, hard slabs, and faceted layers including depth hoar and surface hoar that grew between storms, as well as still-dry snow being moved around, the weak nature of the current snowpack is also evidenced by a few controlled slides which have been seen in the West Basin and along Highline Ridge since my last post. The same weak layers which were reactive earlier this month are still present, now beneath a few more storm layers which are themselves unsettled. Because of this, any avalanche terrain including runouts and where trails cross slide paths should be approached with caution or avoided. Avalanche potential is currently in the moderate to considerable range on all aspects and elevations above 8k except high elevation, westerly terrain where winds have scoured the slopes to the ground.

These pics are from February 24th, note the heavy windloading along ridges and significant crossloading that has occurred in the starting zones at the top of the Peace Chute and Fingers;

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Crowns near the top of Stauffenberg
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Windloading on Kachina's north ridge
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Peace Chute Main
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Ring Finger
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Wheeler
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Wheeler's Northwest Gully starting zones
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Re: Taos Ski Valley/Wheeler Peak Region

Postby JBella » Tue Feb 27, 2018 2:01 pm

A personal note regarding the current snowpack ~ some ski tracks have been spotted in the Wheeler Peak Wilderness however not nearly as many as usual for the end of February, there is good reason that a lot of us who are familiar with this area are avoiding our favorite lines. It's been awe-inspiring how late into Winter the lack of rideable snow persisted, now that we have enough snow to ride it's important to keep in mind that the lean years with a thin snowpack can be more dangerous than others. Avalanche potential in localized zones and paths is significant yet unpredictable, as we transition to Spring this trend will continue. More storms and snowfall in the near future will only add weight to a sketchy snowpack, until we have a heavy storm cycle that brings enough snow to trigger a widespread natural avalanche cycle and/or seasonal Spring temperatures arrive and the snowpack becomes isothermal the issues that are currently keeping us on edge will persist.
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