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

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
Trace Trace NC213 CM-4.0 C3.0 C-4.0 COvercastSnowView
0 CM 0 MM0CM213 CM-1.5 C0.0 C-11.5 COvercastNo precipitation
0 CM 0 MM0CM214 CM-11.0 C-4.5 C-14.0 CClearNo precipitation
0 CM 0.0 MMNC215 CM-13.0 C-9.5 C-15.0 CFewNo precipitation
Trace 0.1 MMNC216 CM-15.5 C-13.0 C-15.5 CBrokenSnowView

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
03/20/1917 F1 F 0.0 in 0.0 in32 MPH58 MPH

270 (W)

03/19/194 F-4 FTrace Trace 43.4 MPH63 MPH

300 (WNW)

03/18/193 F-6 F 0.03 in 0 in52.1 MPH82 MPH

280 (W)

03/17/192 F-6 F 0.07 in .5 in61.5 MPH110 MPH

270 (W)

03/16/1925 F2 F 0.24 in 2.3 in67.5 MPH97 MPH

280 (W)

03/15/1941 F25 F 0.04 inTrace 54 MPH105 MPH

250 (WSW)

03/14/1940 F17 F Trace in Trace in27.7 MPH75 MPH

200 (SSW)

03/13/1924 F11 F .07 in .8 in29 MPH52 MPH

290 (WNW)

03/12/1911 F-1 F 0.14 in 1.9 in65 MPH104 MPH

280 (W)

03/11/1917 F6 F 0.35 in 4.4 in77 MPH114 MPH

280 (W)

03/10/1925 F4 F .35 in 3.7 in47.2 MPH94 MPH

150 (SSE)

03/09/1919 F0 F 0 in 0 in36.1 MPH70 MPH

290 (WNW)

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