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.

The Mount Washington Avalanche Center will no longer issue daily avalanche forecasts for the 2018/19 season. Read more

The Mount Washington Avalanche Center will no longer issue daily avalanche forecasts for the 2018/19 season. Instead, we will post an updated General Bulletin as needed, in case of significant snow or weather events that might vary from the typical daily changes that come with spring weather. We will also keep you informed about the official closure of the portion of the Tuckerman Ravine Trail from Lunch Rocks through the Lip and Headwall as well as the switch from the Lion Head Winter Route to the summer trail. Observations from the field will continue to be a valuable resource, so please keep submitting photos, videos and observations here and we will do the same. Check the Forecast page for update on Sherburne Trail closures, which are imminent as spring snowmelt continues.

The switch to a General Bulletin does NOT mean that the mountains are now a safe place to ski. The hazards which emerge in the spring are significant and require careful assessment and strategic management. If you have never skied Tuckerman, peruse our Incidents and Accidents page for spring related incidents involving avalanches, long sliding falls, icefall, crevasse and moat falls, and other incidents related to diurnal changes in the snowpack. These will help you understand and plan for these hazards.

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

Danger Rating by Zone

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.

Avalanche Safety Information Study

Please contribute to the effort to improve backcountry avalanche forecasts! Researchers in Canada devised a study to better understand how we communicate the avalanche risk, and we need your help. Please fill out this survey. It will take a few minutes, but it will help us as we work on new ways to give you the most important avalanche information.

Snow Plot Information

Density (%)HSTTotalAir TT MaxT MinSkyPrecipComments
0 CM 20.4 MM0CM68 CM11.0 C12.0 C3.5 CObscuredNo precipitation
0 CM 0.0 MM0CM72 CM4.0 C6.0 C2.0 COvercastNo precipitation
0 CM 7.6 MM0CM80 CM1.0 C6.0 C1.0 COvercastNo precipitation
0 CM 0.8 MM0CM84 CM4.0 C10.0 C0.0 CClearNo precipitation
0 CM 0.0 MM0CM84 CM1.0 C1.5 C0.0 CFewNo precipitation

Avalanche Log and Summit Weather

Daily Observations

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
05/18/1934 F26 F 0.06 in 0.5 in39 MPH74 MPH

300 (WNW)

05/17/1940 F28 F .22 in .05 in37 MPH81 MPH

300 (WNW)

05/16/1932 F25 F .03 in 04 in22.8 MPH40 MPH

310 (NW)

05/15/1926 F20 F .05 in .4 in32.1 MPH67 MPH

330 (NNW)

05/14/1928 F17 F .2 in 2 in19.1 MPH57 MPH

100 (E)

05/13/1928 F19 F .07 in 0.9 in34.6 MPH67 MPH

100 (E)

05/12/1931 F17 F 0 in 0 in20.5 MPH47 MPH

330 (NNW)

05/11/1932 F18 F .1 in 0 in53.6 MPH84 MPH

300 (WNW)

05/10/1944 F27 F .85 in 0 in50.1 MPH88 MPH

220 (SW)

05/09/1942 F20 F .04 in 0 in18.6 MPH44 MPH

190 (S)

05/08/1927 F18 F 0 in 0 in38.3 MPH65 MPH

330 (NNW)

05/07/1939 F26 F .54 in 0 in40 MPH66 MPH

270 (W)

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