West side upper elevations, widespread scouring

By Ryan Matz | MWAC Forecaster

Date of Observation: January 5, 2019  11:00 AM
Location of Observation: Upper elevation Ammonoosuc Ravine, Burt Ravine

While east facing ravines hold large areas of recently wind loaded snow, upper elevations on the west side of the Presidential range seem largely scoured to a crust. In many areas, that crust is the 12/22 rain crust that is nearly impenetrable with a boot. More recent breakable crusts can be found. Pockets of snow from the past week are scarce, and as a result, today’s avalanche problem was all but non existent.

Today was a classic example of the spatial variability inherent to range scale forecasting. The Presidential Range received a Moderate danger rating. The specific aspects and elevations where the wind slab avalanche problem could be found did have Moderate avalanche danger, while avalanches were hardly a relevant hazard on some other aspects. Most days are less black and white than today regarding distribution of an avalanche problem and thus avalanche danger, but it’s always worth considering the aspect and elevation where each avalanche problem is relevant when mentally gearing up to make decisions in the field.


Snowpack observations are one part of the complex puzzle which is your decision to enter avalanche terrain. Some observations may include stability tests. It’s important to understand that the results of a stability tests are seldom conclusive anywhere, but particularly in snow climates and terrain like ours where the primary driver of instabilities is wind drifted snow. Many stability tests exist and each works best with specific avalanche problem types. Stability test results should never be used alone as an indication that a slope or conditions are safe particularly when more obvious red flags are present. Please use this page as part of your information gathering process, but don’t make decisions based on a single piece of information. A good article that summarizes some of the issues associated with snow and avalanche observations can be found here.

The Mount Washington Avalanche Center cannot verify the quality or accuracy of any observations that come from the general public.


See an avalanche or evidence of previous avalanche activity?  Near-miss? Snowpack observations?

Your observations are valuable to an accurate forecast! We welcome observations from everyone. You don’t need to be an avalanche professional to submit helpful observations, just be as detailed and accurate as you can.