Avalanche Forecast for Saturday, March 21, 2020

This information was published 03/21/2020 at 7:10 AM.


This is an archived avalanche forecast.

The Bottom Line

The snowpack in our forecast area became wet at all elevations yesterday, followed by a refreeze with falling temperatures overnight creating a sliding fall hazard. Good mountain boots, crampons, an ice axe and the skills to use them are required tools for traveling on open snow slopes and steep terrain today. Ice climbers should be wary of ice dams holding back pressurized meltwater until the snowpack fully drains and refreezes. 

Wind and low temperatures combined with the icy conditions today will make any travel above treeline challenging, and will add an unwelcome element of danger turning small problems into big problems.  Reduce your risk by being prepared, careful and conservative. 

Avalanche danger is LOW.

2020-3-21 Printed Forecast

Mountain Weather

Yesterday, the summit of Mt Washington began the day in the high 30s F and reached a high temperature of 43F around noon before decreasing, dropping below 0F around 9pm. Hermit Lake reached 53F. Light rain showers during the morning and afternoon resulted in 0.31” of water, and just 0.2” of snow. Wind danced around the W cardinal point in the afternoon and evening at 75 – 90mph with a gust of 145mph recorded from the W.

3/21 5am. Chart image from NWS KMWN Hourly Records

Today, we begin the day with the summit at 7F and NW wind 65-85mph. Temperatures will continue to drop to around 0F as NW wind drops to 45-60mph. Cloudy skies will become partly sunny and we may see a trace to 1” of snow from snow showers this morning.

Tomorrow, temperatures will begin below zero and slowly rise to around 5F under clear skies. NW wind 30-45mph will decrease to 10-25mph. Looking ahead, temperatures will remain cold with the next chance for snow on Monday afternoon.

Forecast Discussion

After yesterday’s warm up, followed by the drop in temperatures we don’t have an avalanche problem of concern, and may not until the next round of snow early in the week. Easily the greatest hazard today will be long sliding falls, which are prevented by using the proper equipment and moving very carefully, and deliberately. Preventing a stumble or fall from happening is the best way to avoid a dangerous long sliding fall. 

Unrelated to the forecast, the AMC has fully closed the Joe Dodge Lodge and Visitor Center for public use. This includes all restrooms and the basement pack room. Please plan accordingly.

Additional Information

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

The Lion Head Winter Route remains the easiest route to the summit from Pinkham Notch but requires an ice axe, crampons (not just micro-spikes) and possibly a rope. This is a mountaineering route and requires solid skills for a safe, timely ascent.

Details on daily snowfall totals, precipitation type, total depth of snow and other information can be found on our page devoted to snow study plot data. Click here to check it out.

Recent snowpack and avalanche observations can be found here and on Instagram. Your observations help improve our forecast product. Please take a moment and submit a photo or two and a brief description of snow and avalanche information that you gather in the field.

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 03/21/2020 at 7:10 AM.

Jeff fongemie
USDA Forest Service
White Mountain National Forest