Winter Conditions in the Alpine

This forecast was published 10/27/2018 at 7:00 AM.
A new bulletin will be issued when conditions warrant.

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

An early visit from old man winter deposited close to 29″ of snow through the last week of October on the summit of Mount Washington. While a return to warmer temperatures brought freezing rain and then rain and above freezing temperatures, snow on the ground will likely be around for a while. All this snow yielded some early turns for skiers and some crown lines indicating some avalanche activity. Where the snow has fallen and drifted into continuous snowfields, any new snow may find a bed surface to release another avalanche. An new snow means that it will be important to play by the rules of winter, even though the calendar says early November. Here’s a checklist to use as a starting point if you are considering a trip into the high country.

Danger Rating by Zone

  • Bring the gear you’d bring in mid-winter including a beacon, probe and shovel. Perform your group beacon check before you leave the car…the batteries last a long time but not forever if you forget to turn it off. Corrosion due to batteries left in your device can damage your beacon. If you haven’t already practiced with your beacons, now is a good time to do that.
  • Plan to be self-sufficient if someone gets injured. Waiting for rescue is seldom your best choice. A lightweight, improvised rescue sled kit or some means of transporting a person with an incapacitating injury should be part of your group gear.
  • Any continuous slope in the 30-40+ degree range should be evaluated for it’s ability to produce an avalanche. Denser snow over softer snow, either from wind packing or warming or rain should be considered suspect. Travel one at a time and avoid lingering in fall line. Helmets are a great idea.
  • Early season avalanches, no matter how small, are dangerous. Rocks and cliffs in the runout of a slide path means that traumatic injury or worse can result if you get caught in a slide. Flat spots on a slope, trees and boulders can serve as terrain traps that pile snow deeply enough to bury a person.
  • Avalanches don’t care about danger ratings or how good a skier you are. 5 scale avalanche advisories will be posted when snowfields grow further and when winter has fully taken hold. As always, you control your exposure to the risk of avalanche and other mountain hazards by choosing where, when, and how you travel.

The ground is not yet solidly frozen, meaning loose rocks are beneath all of this snow. Be sure to account for increased travel time due to challenging travel conditions, even below treeline. The wind that accompanied this week’s snow brought plenty of trees and branches down onto the trails, further complicating travel. Remember the days keep getting shorter, so don’t forget your headlamp!

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 CMTrace 0CM0 CM8.0 C11.0 C0.5 CBrokenNo precipitation
0 CM 0.0 MM0CM0 CM7.5 C7.5 C1.0 CScatteredNo precipitation
0 CM 22.3 MM0CM0 CM1.5 C4.0 C0.0 COvercastNo precipitation
0 CM 0.0 MM0CM0 CM0.5 C11.0 C0.5 CClearNo precipitation
0 CM 0.0 MM0CM10 CM8.0 C15.5 C8.0 CClearNo precipitation

Avalanche Log and Summit Weather

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
05/30/1946 F36 F 0 in 0 in27.9 MPH55 MPH

290 (WNW)

05/29/1947 F33 F 0 in 0 in20 MPH48 MPH

290 (WNW)

05/28/1934 F28 F .71 in 3.7 in20 MPH48 MPH

290 (WNW)

05/27/1940 F27 FTrace 0 in38.9 MPH68 MPH

300 (WNW)

05/26/1948 F39 F .77 in 0 in48.7 MPH75 MPH

290 (WNW)

05/25/1947 F31 F .42 in 0 in17.7 MPH63 MPH

240 (WSW)

05/24/1942 F32 F .66 in 0 in44.8 MPH105 MPH

05/23/1944 F30 F .16 in 0 in26.8 MPH71 MPH

270 (W)

05/22/1934 F21 F 0 in 0 in36.2 MPH115 MPH

330 (NNW)

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)

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 10/27/2018 at 7:00 AM.

Frank Carus, Lead Snow Ranger
USDA Forest Service
White Mountain National Forest