Avalanche Forecast for Sunday, February 17, 2019

This forecast was published 02/17/2019 at 7:07 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

It is possible for skiers and climbers to trigger a large avalanche today. Wind slabs that exist on the eastern half of the compass have a good deal of variability in their hardness. A double-edged sword exists in avalanche terrain with avalanche paths offering the less likely chance of producing a large avalanche while sheltered areas or treed slopes with softer snow give an increased likelihood of producing smaller avalanches. All areas have MODERATE avalanche danger due to the the potential of initiating a slide today as well as the possibility of producing a destructive avalanche. Terrain with a southern aspect, such as the Northern Gullies in Huntington, likely contains less developed wind slab and may offer more opportunities for safe travel. Good terrain management will provide ample opportunities for quality skiing and climbing.

Printable 2019-02-17

Danger Rating by Zone

Mountain Weather

Wind speed increased through the day yesterday with a shift to the NW. Steady speeds close to 70 mph were recorded late in the evening after starting the day in the 40 mph range. About 1” of snow fell at upper elevations. Today will be a pleasant mid-winter day with summit temperatures rising to 10F with wind from the NW becoming W and dropping from the current 60 mph to the 10-20 mph range by mid-afternoon. No snow is forecast today, though developing clouds this afternoon mark the incoming low pressure system that will bring steady but light snowfall tomorrow.

Primary Avalanche Problem – Wind Slab

Wind Slab




Wind slabs that vary in hardness, from soft through hard, can now be found on a variety of aspects on the eastern half of the compass at middle and upper elevations. While overnight wind from the NW transported the inch that fell Saturday, it has also increased bridging strength, likely creating stubborn wind slab on exposed slopes like those in typical avalanche paths. Sheltered areas that are protected from high wind speeds contain softer wind slab that provide a more likely place to initiate a crack. While treed slopes may provide anchoring early in the season, today they may lure skiers onto the more reactive areas of today’s avalanche problem.

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

Our upper snowpack at mid and high elevations consists of layered wind slab resting on top of a crust that developed over a week ago. Field observations yesterday in Huntington and Tuckerman found a reactive surface wind slab in wind sheltered areas on top of a more stubborn layer of wind slab below. This all sits on top of a hard bed surface. Natural avalanche activity on NE aspects, that occurred this past Wednesday, indicates the possibility of a slide entraining all snow above the crust and producing a large avalanche. Lower elevations saw a brief period of rain on Friday, creating a breakable crust on the surface. While temperatures and cloud cover will negate warming above 3500’, the effect of warming down low may weaken the crust and weaken any slabs that may exist in steep terrain. Bright and direct sun on steep slopes and in wind protected areas would be the red flag to watch for.

Additional Concerns

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

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
05/19/1951 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)

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)

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 02/17/2019 at 7:07 AM.

Helon Hoffer
USDA Forest Service
White Mountain National Forest