Avalanche Forecast for Friday, December 14, 2018

This forecast was published 12/14/2018 at 7:06 AM.
A new forecast will be issued tomorrow.


This is an archived avalanche forecast and expired on 12/14/2018 at midnight.

The Bottom Line

Areas of multi-layered wind slab can be found sitting on top of a melt-freeze crust. Safe travel in steep terrain will require evaluating snow and terrain carefully to identify features of concern. East-facing aspects keep a MODERATE rating today as they received more snow from direct loading and have seen less settlement. Areas with a LOW rating today are a mix of crusts, hard wind slab, and sun-affected snow that may harbor isolated pockets of unstable snow.

Printable 2018-12-14

Forecast Area

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Mountain Weather

Snowfall was last recorded on the Presidential Range Wednesday morning. This snow that fell was relatively light density (6%) and arrived on an increasing, strong, NW wind. Thursday’s high pressure brought light wind from the south and increasing temperature along with clear skies. As the high departs today, clouds will develop along with increasing wind from the west and increasing temperatures. It looks as if the high summits will be cold enough to receive up to 2” of snow tonight with lower elevations seeing mixed precipitation or rain.

Primary Avalanche Problem – Wind Slab

Wind Slab




Wind slab is  the avalanche problem today, though it is not contained to snow that arrived on Tuesday night. Strong wind appears to have transported much of this snow into the woods, leaving older wind slabs on the radar today. While some of these formed more than a week ago, largely cold temperatures have slowed the bonding process. These firm wind slabs are stubborn to a trigger, though could break large when they do. Areas with a Moderate rating saw less scouring and have more of the soft wind slab that may be reactive to a skier or climber. Keep in mind that it may not be the first set of tracks on a slope that finds the trigger point.

What is a Windslab Avalanche?

  Wind Slab avalanches are the release of a cohesive layer of snow (a slab) formed by the wind. Wind typically transports snow from the upwind sides of terrain features and deposits snow on the downwind side. Wind slabs are often smooth and rounded and sometimes sound hollow, and can range from soft to hard. Wind slabs that form over a persistent weak layer (surface hoar, depth hoar, or near-surface facets) may be termed Persistent Slabs or may develop into Persistent Slabs.

Snowpack and Avalanche Discussion

Much of the melt-freeze crust from December 2 and 3 is visible in avalanche terrain, particularly on the western half of the compass. Wind slab is prevalent on eastern aspects, such as the Headwall of Tuckerman and the main gullies in Gulf of Slides, with a mix of texture and hardness. Areas of softer wind slab have a much smoother appearance and present the bigger challenge to safe travel. These are present in the lee of terrain features as well as places that are down-wind of our fetch. Large areas of hard (Pencil hard) wind slab that offer minimal boot penetration can be found in shady aspects and have interfaces that fracture in a non-planar, irregular character. South-facing aspects received solar gain on Thursday and prior which has promoted settling in the weak layers.

Additional Concerns

Ski trails like the Gulf of Slides and Sherburne are skiable all the way to the Pinkham parking lot. Few rocks exist, though the occasional open waterbar is good reason to check your speed. Developing facets under the melt-freeze crust has created tough travel in places with deep post-holing. Travel speeds can get significantly slowed by this.

Snow Plot Information

Density (%)HSTTotalAir TT MaxT MinSkyPrecipComments
0 CMTrace 0CM0 CM8.0 C11.0 C0.5 CBrokenNo precipitation
0 CM 0.0 MM0CM0 CM7.5 C7.5 C1.0 CScatteredNo precipitation
0 CM 22.3 MM0CM0 CM1.5 C4.0 C0.0 COvercastNo precipitation
0 CM 0.0 MM0CM0 CM0.5 C11.0 C0.5 CClearNo precipitation
0 CM 0.0 MM0CM10 CM8.0 C15.5 C8.0 CClearNo precipitation

Avalanche Log and Summit Weather

Thank you Mount Washington Observatory for providing daily weather data from the summit of Mount Washington.

DateMax TempMin TempTotal (SWE)24H Snow & IceWind AvgWind Fastest MileFastest Mile DirAvalanche Activity
05/30/1946 F36 F 0 in 0 in27.9 MPH55 MPH

290 (WNW)

05/29/1947 F33 F 0 in 0 in20 MPH48 MPH

290 (WNW)

05/28/1934 F28 F .71 in 3.7 in20 MPH48 MPH

290 (WNW)

05/27/1940 F27 FTrace 0 in38.9 MPH68 MPH

300 (WNW)

05/26/1948 F39 F .77 in 0 in48.7 MPH75 MPH

290 (WNW)

05/25/1947 F31 F .42 in 0 in17.7 MPH63 MPH

240 (WSW)

05/24/1942 F32 F .66 in 0 in44.8 MPH105 MPH

05/23/1944 F30 F .16 in 0 in26.8 MPH71 MPH

270 (W)

05/22/1934 F21 F 0 in 0 in36.2 MPH115 MPH

330 (NNW)

05/21/1934 F23 F .57 in 1.9 in73 MPH135 MPH

330 (NNW)

05/20/1951 F33 F 0.57 in 0.0 in48 MPH82 MPH

250 (WSW)

05/19/1951 F34 F .6 in 0 in34.2 MPH66 MPH

250 (WSW)

Please Remember:

Safe travel in avalanche terrain requires training and experience. This forecast is just one tool to help you make your own decisions in avalanche terrain. You control your own risk by choosing where, when, and how you travel.

Avalanche danger may change when actual weather differs from the higher summits forecast.

For more information contact the US Forest Service Snow Rangers, AMC visitor services staff at the Pinkham Notch Visitor Center, or the caretakers at Hermit Lake Shelters or seasonally at the Harvard Cabin (generally December 1 through March 31). The Mount Washington Ski Patrol is also available on spring weekends.

Posted 12/14/2018 at 7:06 AM.

Helon Hoffer
USDA Forest Service
White Mountain National Forest