Avalanche Forecast for Friday, January 18, 2019

This forecast was published 01/18/2019 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

The recipe for small wind slabs is on the table today with a ripe wind direction and speed for loading. However, it’s likely we will lack the snow which serves as the crucial ingredient, at least during daylight hours, to build those slabs. If you are out climbing (recommended) or skiing (not so much) bring your crampons for the rugged, hard snow and keep an eye on the weather, especially later in the day. Overall stable conditions today, even with a small amount of new snow, should keep us at a LOW danger rating today. If we receive the upper end of the forecasted 1-3” of snow, the potential for small, human-triggered avalanches may exceed that rating, especially as evening approaches.

2019-1-18 Printable

Danger Rating by Zone

Mountain Weather

Low tide conditions continue with no new snow recorded in the past 24 hours around the range. Summit temperature at 6 am is 0F with wind from the southwest near 40 mph. A weak cold front will pass through this afternoon and bring snow shower activity with it. Accumulations should be light, with forecasts ranging from one inch up to three inches. Wind will shift west and ramp up into the 45-60 mph range in the afternoon. Dry air in place and limited moisture in the system seem likely to keep snow accumulations low. Temperatures will fall again tonight to near -10F with wind remaining from the northwest in the 40-55 mph range. After a fairly calm but seasonably cold day tomorrow, a significant winter storm arrives in the evening with temperatures staying quite cold through the storm. Low density snow will likely create challenging conditions for a number of reasons with “postholing” through thigh-deep snow, even with snowshoes, being among them.

Primary Avalanche Problem – Wind Slab

Wind Slab




Wind slabs have been unreactive for several days now bringing generally safe avalanche conditions to the range. Some pockets of softer snow exist but also seem to present generally stable conditions. The possibility of finding and triggering a thin spot in a hard wind slab resting on the ice crust is unlikely but not impossible. New wind slabs could develop late in the day, especially if we receive 3” of new snow.

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

Remnants of the 1.5” of snow that fell Wednesday and developed small but softer wind slabs are scattered around in the most sheltered locations of the terrain. Overall, the snow surface in avalanche paths is dominated by thick hard wind slabs or avalanche debris from the widespread January 10/11 avalanche cycle. Facets have been observed around the ice crust under the hard wind slabs that remain, though triggering these tough slabs remains unlikely. The incoming snowstorm will be greeted by fully developed avalanche paths, at least in the eastern half of the compass rose. This includes slopes and gullies with a more south-easterly aspect.

Additional Concerns

The Sherburne and Gulf of Slides ski trails are snow covered to Pinkham Notch.

Thanks to the 72 people that came out to LL Bean in Freeport for the avalanche awareness talk last night. We’ll see you there next year. Check our events page for two more talks coming up at REI stores in Reading and Boston.

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
Trace 6.2 MMTrace60 CM0.5 C2.0 C-1.0 CClearNo precipitationView
0 CM 4.2 MM0CM60 CM2.0 C15.0 C2.0 COvercastNo precipitation
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

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
05/21/1934 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)

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)

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 01/18/2019 at 7:06 AM.

Frank Carus
USDA Forest Service
White Mountain National Forest