Avalanche Advisory

Turnagain Area Avalanche Advisory
Forecaster:   Wendy Wagner  
Tuesday, April 7th 2015
Created: Apr 7th 5:51 am
3 Considerable Alpine / Above 2,500' Travel Advice: Dangerous avalanche conditions. Careful snowpack evaluation, cautious routefinding and conservative decision-making essential.
2 Moderate Treeline / 1,000'-2,500' Travel Advice: Heightened avalanche conditions on specific terrain features. Evaluate snow and terrain carefully; identify features of concern.
0 NO RATING Below Treeline / Below 1,000'
 Show the Complete North American Avalanche Danger Scale
The Bottom Line

There is a CONSIDERABLE avalanche danger in the Girdwood Valley and other favored areas that receive 8-16+" of new snow by this afternoon. New snow combined with strong Easterly winds will create a variety of storm snow instabilities. These include wind slabs (up to 2' thick), loose snow avalanches and cornice falls. Natural avalanches are possible and human triggered avalanches are likely. Careful snowpack evaluation and conservative route-finding is essential in avalanche terrain.

*Today's avalanche danger will depend on the amount of new snow that accumulates. Some areas, possibly Turnagain Pass itself, will only see around 6" of new snow and will have a MODERATE danger - in this case.

Primary Concern

A quick moving storm is impacting most areas in Southcentral Alaska this morning. Anywhere from 6-16" of new snow is possible depending on what areas in the Girdwood/Portage/Turnagain Pass regions are favored. Gale force Easterly winds on the other hand are equally impacting the ridgetops across the regions; Sunburst weather station is averaging in the 60's mph with gusts in the 90's. Precipitation began last night and as of 6am this morning, storm totals are:

Girdwood Valley -  1.1" of water at Alyeska's Top station (2800') = ~10+" of snow 
Turnagain Pass -  0.2" of water (1880') = 3-4" of snow in the Alpine
Summit Lake -  0" 

Another 5-7" of snow is expected today on top of the totals above at the higher elevations. Along with a storm day comes your garden variety storm snow issues, listed below. These issues are dependent upon the amount of new snow that falls. Turnagain Pass seems to be on the losing end so far but may see a bump in precip later this morning. Bonding with the old snow surface is expected to be initially poor, especially on South, West and East aspects due to a slick and hard pre-existing sun crust.

With such strong winds, most slabs formed today will have a wind component, even in the lower elevations. Wind slabs could build as thick as 2+' in higher snowfall zones but will likely be around 8-12" in the Turnagain Pass area. Watching for current wind loading and cracking in the snow around you, as well as performing quick hand pits and using a pole to feel for stiff snow over softer snow, are all good ways to suss out slabs.

Sluffs should be expected in areas out of the wind. These are likely to run fast and far on aspects with a crust underneath. Additionally, damp or wet snow sluffs, within the new snow, will trigger easily with the first warming by the sun (possibly late today or tomorrow).

Cornices will increase in size with this storm and may fail naturally triggering an avalanche below - similar to last week.

Secondary Concern

North facing aspects above 2,000' have a variety of weak faceted layers 2-3' below the surface. For the most part these have adjusted to the current load, however with additional load today (new snow and wind) they have the potential to re-activate. This means either a storm snow avalanche could 'step-down' and trigger and deeper slide lower on the slope, or a slab could fail initially in these old weak layers. Either way, Northerlies harbor potential for large slab avalanches.

If you find yourself hunting for fresh snow after this storm, be aware that a slab avalanche breaking in old snow 2-3+' down is possible on steep North facing terrain. 

Mountain Weather

Overcast skies and windy conditions filled the region yesterday as a large low-pressure system in the Bering pushed a moist frontal band our way. Ridgetop winds ramped up later in the day with averages around 30mph from the East. Temperatures were in the mid 20's F on the ridgetops and near 40F at 1,000'. Overnight, precipitation began falling with rain below 1,500' and as of 6am this morning we have seen around 10" of snow in the upper elevations in Girdwood Valley yet only 3-4" at Turnagain Pass. 

Today, we should see another .5-.7" of rain below 1,500' and 5-7" of snow above. The bulk of the precipitation should end by mid-day with a chance for skies to break later this afternoon. Ridgetop winds will remain in the gale force category with averages between 40-65mph and gusts up to 90mph from the East; winds should die off late in the day. Temperatures look to increase to the upper 20's F on the ridgetops before cooling off quickly with the end of the precipitation.

Check out this radar link for a good look at the frontal passage and trailing dry line (end of main precip event).

Radar image below is from 6:57am this morning:

Wednesday looks to be mostly cloudy with light showers before another similar quick moving front moves through on Thursday.

PRECIPITATION 24-hour data (6am - 6am)

  Temp Avg (F) Snow (in) Water (in) Snow Depth (in)
Center Ridge (1880') 33  0.2  59 
Summit Lake (1400') 37   0
Alyeska Mid (1700') 33  0.67  35 


RIDGETOP 24-hour data (6am - 6am)

  Temp Avg (F) Wind Dir Wind Avg (mph) Wind Gust (mph)
Sunburst (3812') 25  ENE  34  94 
Seattle Ridge(2400') 27  n/a  30 66 

This is a general backcountry avalanche advisory issued for Turnagain Arm with Turnagain Pass as the core advisory area (this advisory does not apply to highways, railroads, or operating ski areas).

Winter snowmachine use open/closed status and riding conditions updates

Riding status is not associated with avalanche danger. An area will be open to motorized use in accordance to the Forest Management Plan when snow coverage is adequate to protect underlying vegetation. Backcountry hazards including avalanche hazard are always present regardless of the open status of motorized use areas.

(Updated: Apr 28, 2017 )

Glacier District
Johnson Pass: Closed
Placer River: Closed
Skookum Drainage: ClosedSKOOKUM DRAINAGE CLOSED TO MOTORIZED USE ON APRIL 1 annually as per the Chugach National Forest Plan document.
Turnagain Pass: OpenOpen thru May 14th.
Twentymile: Closed
Seward District
Carter Lake: OpenClosed May 1.
Lost Lake Trail: OpenClosed May 1.
Primrose Trail: OpenClosed May 1.
Resurrection Pass Trail: ClosedClosed for 2016/17 winter season. This is a non-motorized season. This alternates every other year and will open again during the 2017/18 winter.
Snug Harbor: OpenClosed May 1.
South Fork Snow River Corridor: OpenClosed May 1.
Summit Lake: OpenClosed May 1.

Subscribe to the Turnagain Area Avalanche Advisory:

The information in this advisory is from the U.S. Forest Service, which is solely responsible for its content. This advisory describes general avalanche conditions and local variations always occur. This advisory provided by the Chugach National Forest, in partnership with Friends of the Chugach National Forest Avalanche Information Center.

If you have comments or questions regarding CNFAIC operations or winter recreation management, please email
© 2017 Chugach National Forest Avalanche Information Center. All rights reserved.