Avalanche Advisory

Turnagain Area Avalanche Advisory
Monday, December 14th 2015 7:00 am by Wendy Wagner
ARCHIVED ADVISORY - All advisories expire after 24 hours from the posting date/time.
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The Bottom Line

Another round of snowfall with upwards of 6" overnight and strong wind is keeping the avalanche danger at CONSIDERABLE in the upper elevation start zones. Expect wind slab avalanches around a foot thick to be easily triggered on wind loaded slopes. A MODERATE danger exists below 2,500' for these same avalanches in areas the wind is affecting the snow. At all elevations, watch for loose snow avalanches on steep slopes.

 Show the Complete North American Avalanche Danger Scale
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.
2 Moderate Below Treeline / Below 1,000' Travel Advice: Heightened avalanche conditions on specific terrain features. Evaluate snow and terrain carefully; identify features of concern.
Special Announcement

Join CNFAIC forecasters for a Free Avalanche Rescue Workshop on Sunday, December 20th at Turnagain Pass!! This is a great opportunity to practice beacon searches, learn strategic shoveling techniques and more. This workshop is open to everyone and anyone, novices and experts. We will meet from 11:00-12:30 at the motorized parking lot. See you there!

Avalanche Problem 1

After a brief break in storms yesterday, another pulse of moisture added 5-6+" of new snow last night, with an additional 2-3" expected today. It's starting to look like winter up at the Pass! Yesterday also was the 1st time in over 18 months that enough snow covered the ground to allow the Chugach National Forest to open to motorized use. Many, many folks were out enjoying the day as well as testing the slope stability. After a good thumping by snowmachines, we only had one report of a sled triggered avalanche. This was remotely triggered in 2nd Bowl (Junior's Bowl). If anyone has additional information regarding any other avalanche activity please send us a quick note HERE.

Avalanche conditions today will be mainly confined to storm snow issues. These are:

WIND SLABS: Strong winds blew from a generally East direction last night accompanying the snowfall. With the new snow plus plenty existing snow available for transport, watch for any slope that has been freshly wind loaded. These slabs are likely to be around a foot thick, but do have the potential to 'step down' into deeper layers and trigger a larger avalanche. Watch for cracks that shoot from your snowmachine/skis/board and areas with a smooth rounded surface texture - these are signs that a wind slab is present and could slide if the slope is steep enough.

SLUFFS: Sluffs on steep slopes should be expected within today's light snow.

Again as Heather pointed out yesterday, the snowpack is dramatically thicker on the North end of the Turnagain Pass. With that said, the South side of the Pass is slowly filling in. Photo below is from Mike Records from the Silver Tip area:


The motorized lot on opening day 2015/16.

Avalanche Problem 2

Under the 16-30" of storm snow from the past 5 days sits both a layer of Buried Surface Hoar (BSH) and a layer of Near Surface Facets (NSF). Although one of these layers may be the culprit for the avalanche yesterday, we cannot say that for certain since we were not able to investigate. We do know stability tests are showing mixed results, with the general theme of no reactivity. Although it is becoming unlikely to trigger a large avalanche breaking 2+' down, it is not out of the question and something to keep in the back of our heads.

A look at a layer of BSH at 3,100' on a SW aspect - you can see the 'thin gray' line in the middle of the snow (Photo credit Andy Moderow, report HERE). This layer is not found everywhere and since it can be a problem layer for avalanche activity, we are tracking it.

Mountain Weather

Yesterday afternoon skies clouded over, Easterly winds picked up and snow began to fall as a quick moving system rolled through. Between 5-6" of snow fell overnight with Easterly winds averaging in the 30's and 40's mph. Temperatures have climbed slightly and are sitting near 20F on the ridgetops and near 30F at sea level.

Today, intermittent snow showers will linger with mostly cloudy skies. We may pick up an additional 2-3" in favored areas. Winds have decreased this morning and will be in the 5-15mph range from the East.

Tuesday night through Thursday another round of snowfall is expected as a strong low-pressure moves into the gulf.

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

  Temp Avg (F) Snow (in) Water (in) Snow Depth (in)
Center Ridge (1880') 23  0.4   41 
Summit Lake (1400') 21  0.2   14 
Alyeska Mid (1700') 24  0.42   35


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

  Temp Avg (F) Wind Dir Wind Avg (mph) Wind Gust (mph)
Sunburst (3812')  17 NE  32  66 
Seattle Ridge(2400') 19  N/A  N/A  N/A 

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: Oct 05, 2019 )

Glacier District
Johnson Pass: ClosedClosed
Placer River: ClosedClosed
Skookum Drainage: ClosedClosed
Turnagain Pass: ClosedClosed
Twentymile: ClosedClosed
Seward District
Carter Lake: ClosedClosed
Lost Lake Trail: ClosedClosed
Primrose Trail: ClosedClosed
Resurrection Pass Trail: ClosedClosed. Will be open for the 2019/20 season pending adequate snow cover.
Snug Harbor: ClosedClosed
South Fork Snow River Corridor: ClosedClosed
Summit Lake: ClosedClosed

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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.

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