Taos Ski Valley Region

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JBella
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Re: Taos Ski Valley Region

Post by JBella »

Yesterday morning it snowed 2-3 inches
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Re: Taos Ski Valley Region

Post by JBella »

This is a legit storm. I haven't been out yet, there's 8 inches on my deck and I'll have more measurements in a few hours. It looks like it's going to pick up again tonight, we could easily have a fresh meter by Saturday evening if it keeps up. Not much wind, temps are in the upper teens and low 20s.

Update at 11:35am; storm totals so far 16-22 inches. Very light winds, the only wind affected snow I saw was near Bull of the Woods pasture, some light but noticeable drifts. This storm is the real deal, the wave crossing Arizona right now may be stronger than last night's, it's still dumping here and looks to continue for another 30 or 40 hours.
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Re: Taos Ski Valley Region

Post by JBella »

Storm totals from last night, yesterday, and the previous night were 8-16 inches with the deepest amounts along the ridges near Bull of the Woods Pasture and higher east and north aspects. There was very light wind and the snow is dry. Along the Bull of the Woods road there was significant sloughing within the storm layer where snow has fallen from trees.

From Frazer's north point this morning after the clouds cleared we noticed an R3D2 slide on Bull of the Woods Mountain's northwest aspect, about 250 feet across and appeared to be 1-2 feet deep, the slab released on the rock field below the summit where an old mining cut is visible, a couple hundred feet above where the proper trail crosses the slope below that higher cut where it makes a left turn onto the northwest face. The flank of the slab was visible descending along the treeline on the looker's left side of the slope. We couldn't see how far down it ran but it appeared to have cleared the hiking trail.

Until temps warm up and the snow settles be wary of the storm cycle slab, and consider how a release within this layer may step down into known persistent weak layers. Deep slab instabilities should be sought while performing analyses. Accumulation from the past 4 days is well into the 2-3+ foot range. Snowpack depth at 10,333' on Frazer's north side this morning was 80 inches, consisting of the storm snow above several faceting layers sandwiched among old surface hoar layers.
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Re: Taos Ski Valley Region

Post by JBella »

2-3 inches of dry snow last night, very little wind
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Re: Taos Ski Valley Region

Post by JBella »

some shots from January 12, mixed windslab and powder, about as stable as it gets during the mid-season;

https://vimeo.com/152228308
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Re: Taos Ski Valley Region

Post by JBella »

About a half inch in the low-mid elevations last night. I posted this in the education forum first and decided it's probably relevant for this one as well. I haven't posted much the past couple weeks despite some awesome tours, because conditions have been pretty darn good (and safe, even?) but there was too much uncertainty to declare that before, now I've had time to contemplate and consider the information and observations I've discovered and noticed during this time.

http://www.rgj.com/story/life/outdoors/ ... /79038598/

While we've been seeing relatively "safe" conditions in northern New Mexico during January, we know there are widespread, buried persistent weak layers including old surface hoar that grew between the early season's storm cycles. This article brings up an important point, that surface hoar layers are not always a problem in the Sierra Nevada due to typical warming periods and wind. Often, similar environmental conditions exist in New Mexico, being as far south as we are temps can warm up significantly during Winter, affecting the bonds between layers and overall strength of the snowpack. This year that hasn't happened, precipitation has been above average and temps below average. January often brings a thaw but this year temps have been cool until two days ago when it warmed up a bit. The frequency of storms has been consistently reliable, and several surface hoar layers have been covered with fresh, dry snow as they were developing, we just haven't had the longer dry and warm periods typical to the Sangre de Cristos. This is an important factor to keep in mind, especially on northerly and easterly aspects that aren't affected by direct sunlight until later in the season. Another important point this article mentions is that it is difficult to know where surface hoar layers exist, the only ways to know are to be on the same slopes to check conditions daily, and to know how to recognize these layers while conducting snow pit analyses. We know these layers exist, and how they can affect the overall stability of the snowpack, the challenge is often to take the time to properly study and assess snowpack within localized regions. It's much easier to go on visible, more easily noticeable signs and warnings, which are not always present. This January has provided a rare opportunity to ride some lines that usually aren't safe enough until Spring, yet it is important to be aware of the lurking presence of potential deep slab instabilities. We know there has been a weak interface at the ground since early November, a couple weak layers showing up within the pre-Christmas layers, and some significant and modest accumulations since late December. The past two days, with warm daytime temps and cool nights the snowpack has continued transitioning to a mid/later-season pack, showing signs of drying up and loosing cohesion as lower layers continue the faceting process, in many areas, buried beneath heavier accumulations. This coupled with the fact that there has not been a significant natural avalanche cycle, beyond a few isolated storm slab releases, indicates that the relative safe period we've been experiencing may be subsiding. Look for weaknesses within the layered cake below the surface, seek out consistent and inconsistent results, and keep mental notes of what is observed from zone to zone while travelling in the backcountry. We know a bit about what has been happening, we know there are potential weak layers that have not released yet; the current snowpack is a classic intermountain amalgamation of varying densities and structures. As conditions have been safer than what is typical during January, I haven't seen anything to indicate the green light is on anywhere, it's been mostly in the yellow to lime-green state for the past couple weeks. Southerly aspects are holding much less snow than others but are pretty well filled in compared to most (and average) seasons and there are layers present. I would recommend to be extremely cautious, and follow standard protocol on all NW-SE aspects, especially on open, alpine terrain, like large aprons that are at the prime angle to release if a weak spot is triggered, and higher elevation bowls and chutes where hard slabs have developed during the windier storm events. Convex slopes are holding a deep pack with lots of tension above and onto rollovers, and concave slopes are holding layered weight that may not have enough compression strength holding them up. Think trigger points, along rock outcrops and trees, where slab boundaries blend with cohesionless tg snow. Study route options and consider consequences before entering avalanche terrain.
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Re: Taos Ski Valley Region

Post by JBella »

Yesterday morning there was 2-3 inches fresh
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Re: Taos Ski Valley Region

Post by Marc »

It's good to see that folks are riding high in the B/C. Funny, 10 years ago I rarely, if ever, saw tracks in the outback. 5 years ago, there's tracks nearly everywhere, and now I see loads of B/C travelers. Big trends.

Looking at BTL near the fingers East of TSV, it appears that IF something rips, it's going to be big.

No surface hoar was found in this pit, but a PST of 30/30 on F and DH was significant.
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Re: Taos Ski Valley Region

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Two days ago on January 22 ago I skinned up between the Bong Chute and Phoenix slide path. This is an area I've wanted to check out for years and never felt conditions were safe enough. Basically the entire area between the two open paths is a series of steep, open gullies with starting zones just below to a few hundred feet below treeline. There are some large spruce and fir trees which have obviously survived years, even decades of activity. Conditions were great, and moderately variable; there was some suncrust on a few open areas with slight southerly aspects and still some dry, loose faceted snow on the shaded sides of the gullies. On shaded southwesterly aspects in the forest the old surface had hardened prior to the few inches from the night of Jan. 20-21. While able to kick into this layer for traction, it was real slick and required some effort to penetrate. Average snow depth in non-wind-affected areas was 45-55 inches, consisting of dense faceted layers, old semi-stiff crusts and some softer recycled powder on top. I didn't encounter any surface hoar layers which indicates the frost hadn't formed, or was altered by the weight of the settling snowpack to a point where it was not noticeable on this generally west-facing zone. I felt safe everywhere besides one obvious starting zone, a west facing concave slope about 200 feet across and 35 degrees, closer to the Bong than the Phoenix path. The only widespread, and consistent weakness I discovered on the ascent was the interface with the ground, I was able to easily shear entire columns but unable to produce any results with compression tests, indicating the snowpack is strong within itself but if the right spot is triggered and something does slide (most areas of concern are well-developed and noticeable paths) it is likely to slide big, to the ground and encompass much or most of the historic slide area. While this scenario is probably unlikely with the current load it is always a reasonable consideration while determining routes. Smaller loose slabs, and partial-starting zone releases don't seem likely but may be possible on cooler, shaded pockets like the more northerly aspects on the skier's left sides of the chutes and in the trees between the chutes. There are a lot of great lines in this zone, and while the classic open chutes are noticeable, the smaller ones in the old growth trees may not be as apparent, they are there and this is clearly an active zone overall.

There were some tracks on the east side of Kachina, on the lower sections of Wildy 2. 2 fresh from that day and 2 tracks from before the most recent snow, amidst some small storm-snow sloughs that were narrow yet traveled a respectable distance;
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El Funko slide paths;
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Kachina's east side, Enter the Dragon and Eastern Philosophy chutes;
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Ascent and descent;
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https://vimeo.com/152855249
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JBella
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Re: Taos Ski Valley Region

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Sunday the 24th began with some light winds which picked up through about noon, gusting strong and steady for a few hours. Snow began in the higher elevations during the early afternoon, as the wind subsided snowfall increased throughout the evening. By midnight the wind had settled to some light breezes, and snowfall picked up. The morning of the 25th there was 3-4 inches in most areas, and up to 6 near Bull of the Woods pasture. Snowfall subsided for a few hours with a brief period of almost-sunny weather in the morning, then we headed up the skin track ascending the trees north of the Bong Chute at about 10. Snow picked up again as we entered the trees, with occasional light breezes but no strong winds. The upper half of the older skin track had been blown in during the wind event the previous morning and was an unusable slick slab of windpacked snow, so we followed the same basic route while cutting a new trail in some places, as 3-4 inches accumulated during the ascent. As we approached treeline we noticed a supportable windslab beneath 10-15 inches of fresh snow in some areas. Supportive yet easily broken if kicked hard enough. When we gained then passed treeline the storm clouds began lifting, opening up to awesome views of the Williams Fork mountains to the southwest. Besides the isolated windslabs, and some surface sloughing within the top 2-3 inches when I cut the starting zone we hadn't encountered any instabilities and decided it was safe enough to rip the Bong Chute, so we did. Conditions were about as good as it gets, deep blower pow in the top of the chute and not-as-deep-yet-just-as-blower in the bottom half. I still won't say any green lights are on anywhere, for late January this is about as good as it gets. Relatively stable conditions in most areas currently, the recent snowfall was very light and dry, and was not the tipping point to overweigh the snowpack enough to create slab issues. Old, buried persistent weak layers still exist and can be triggered, I would say the same as I did a few days ago; smaller, loose slab avalanches are unlikely (the newest layer has produced some sloughs but hasn't yet developed a strong slab), and large, destructive avalanches are also unlikely but very possible if the right trigger point is hit.


https://vimeo.com/153288787/settings


Twin Trees and El Funko;
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As the atmosphere cleared, top of the Bong Chute;
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Kerry
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Re: Taos Ski Valley Region

Post by Kerry »

Jared, I think I may be mis-identifying Bong Chute, which I have thought as the less than 30-deg narrow chute about halfway between Pinky and the Wheeler Pk trail, drains part of the hanging basin between Walter and Wheeler. You appear to be further north?
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Re: Taos Ski Valley Region

Post by Kerry »

Also, I dug around Peace Sign and below Wildy Bowl in the steep trees over the weekend. As Jared has already suggested, our snowpack is trending from unusually stable to less stable. Although 2 Rutschblocks in 28-30-deg trees near TL, NE aspect were RB6 EB scores (indicating good stability), we're seeing more faceted layers and larger facets in the DH. On most aspects, I'm occasionally seeing sudden collapses of CT columns on the DH. The CT scores are in the 20's, but the sudden collapses are becoming more frequent.
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Re: Taos Ski Valley Region

Post by JBella »

Kerry wrote:Jared, I think I may be mis-identifying Bong Chute, which I have thought as the less than 30-deg narrow chute about halfway between Pinky and the Wheeler Pk trail, drains part of the hanging basin between Walter and Wheeler. You appear to be further north?
Yeah north of the Peace Chute. I know the chute you're thinking about it's a good line
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Re: Taos Ski Valley Region

Post by JBella »

Warming trend yesterday and today, contributing to some loose surface activity. West aspect about 10,000';
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Re: Taos Ski Valley Region

Post by JBella »

Today is windy, and temps are warm. Temperature is predicted to rise well above freezing throughout tonight and into tomorrow morning as this storm evolves and begins to create a snow event in the Sangres. Could be a big one.

Today I noticed a crust forming atop the snowpack on west through north aspects so I dug around, in the middle elevations (approx. 9800'-10,700') on these aspects and elevations only I found three distinct crust layers each about 1.5cm thick that were shearing apart from eachother easily. These layers were sitting atop mostly loose faceted snow 2-3 feet deep, in undisturbed areas. This isn't much of an issue now, but with warming temps and accumulating snow predicted, could become an issue with a heavy enough load.
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