Avalanche Advisory

Turnagain Area Avalanche Advisory
Tuesday, January 24th 2017 7:00 am by Heather Thamm
ARCHIVED ADVISORY - All advisories expire after 24 hours from the posting date/time.
Previous ForecastNext Forecast
The Bottom Line

CONSIDERABLE avalanche danger exists in the alpine surrounding Turnagain Pass where triggering a wind slab avalanche up to 2-3 feet thick will be likely on steep leeward slopes. At Treeline and below the avalanche danger is MODERATE where triggering a loose snow avalanche or a soft slab up to 1’ thick is possible. Recent snowfall,15-24”, combined with rising temperatures may be adding stress to older layers within the snowpack, and triggering a deeper more connected slab may be possible today on larger steep slopes. Careful snowpack evaluation, cautious route-finding and conservative decision-making are essential if venturing into the alpine today. 

Girdwood Valley: Slabs and loose snow avalanches (sluffs) both have the potential to be larger due to more snow that has fallen over the weekend compared to Turngain Pass. Also heads up for roof avalanches as rising temperatures will make these unsupported slopes unstable. 

Placer Valley: In the lower elevations (below 2,000’) watch for persistent soft slab avalanches up to 2 feet thick that could release on a layer of buried surface hoar. 

Summit Lake: Rising temperatures, recent snowfall and a generally weaker snowpack has the potential for dangerous avalanche conditions. Please check out the Saturday Summit Summary HERE

 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

Dangerous avalanche conditions exist in many area around South-central Alaska including the Anchorage Front Range, Hatcher Pass, and Southern Kenai Mountains. 

  • Click HERE for details about a skier triggered avalanche in South Fork Eagle River. 
  • Click HERE for the Hatcher Pass Avalanche Center advisory and HERE for recent snowpack observations.
  • Attention! If heading to the Southern Kenai Mountains, including the Lost Lake zone, this region is out of the advisory area but has received 3-5 feet of snow from Saturday's storm that has fallen on a reported thin/weak snowpack. The photo below is one of several avalanches in Lost Lake on Fireman’s side from this last weekend. Photo by Chad Winberg.

Avalanche Problem 1

Wind Slabs: Yesterday Northeast winds on Sunburst weather station recorded sustained 30-40 mph winds with gusts in the mid 70’s mph. These strong Easterly ridge top winds combined with 8” of new snow have formed fresh wind slabs in the Alpine. There was also plenty of snow available for transport and these wind slabs have the potential to be 2-3’ thick on leeward features. Heavier warmer snow due to rising temperatures are likely to have made these slabs even more reactive. In many places in the alpine these wind slabs are resting on old hard wind crust from the wind event prior to this weekend’s storm. This combination was found in steep terrain in the upper elevations over the weekend where several skier triggered avalanche occured. Today it will be best to avoid loaded slopes steeper than 35 degrees. Feel for hollow feeling snow, stiffer snow over softer snow or slab sitting on hard snow and watch for cracks that shoot out from your snowmachine, skis or board. 

Storm slabs/Loose Snow avalanches: In places protected from yesterday’s winds storm slabs and loose snow avalanches are possible on steep terrain features. These are likely to be the top 8” of new snow. These are not likely to be large enough to bury a person, but could catch you by surprise. Avoid steep terrain traps where even a small storm slab or sluff could have high consiqences.  

Cornices are also expected to be tender today and could break off naturally or with the weight of a person or snow machine. If you find yourself along a ridge, give these unpredictable hazards extra space and avoid being directly beneath one. 

Roof avalanches: Heads up near building with loaded roof tops as warming temperatures today through Thursday will makes these unsupported slopes unstable. Many roofs have 2-3’ of heavy dense snow from the last few weeks, which is plenty of snow to bury a child, pet or seriously injury a kill an adult. 


Avalanche Problem 2

A variety of persistant weak layers exist within the snowpack and vary across our region. In most cases these layers have been generally dormant. Incremental loading over the last four days has added stress to these older layers. In shallower parts of the area there are developed basal facets and in many locations there is a mid-pack layer of facets from December. At the lower elevations, below 2,000', a layer of buried surface hoar exists under the last two snowfall events (1.5-2 feet below the surface). Slab avalanches failing on this layer are possible where the snow on top is stiff enough to form a slab. Warming temperatures today and through the next few days will make the slab more cohesive increasing the potential for a large more connected slab. The lower terrain in Placer Valley is an area that may have a similar set up. All of these layers are important to remember, especially if we receive a significant load in the next couple of days!!!

An example of the snowpack in the lower elevations at Tincan where a variety of weak layers remain the snowpack.

Mountain Weather

Yesterday temperatures were on the rise at lower elevations reaching 32F near sea level and 30 F at 1000.’ About 8” of new snow fell throughout the day and into the evening in Turnagain Pass and Girdwood. Easterly ridgetop winds increased from moderate to strong late afternoon, averaging in the 30’s mph with gusts in the mid 70’s mph at Sunburst Weather Station. Overnight ridgetop winds decreased to moderate from the East.

Today temperatures will remain warm near 32F below 1000’. Easterly ridgetop winds are expected to diminish, becoming light by early afternoon. Scattered snow showers are possible, with up to 3-6” throughout the day. 

A warming trend is expected to continue through the week as a series of low pressure systems bringing more precipitation to Southcentral, AK. Wednesday evening thru Thursday rain is expected at the lower elevations as temperatures rise to the mid 30’s F with heavy snowfall in the upper elevations. Ridgetop winds are also expected to increase.

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

  Temp Avg (F) Snow (in) Water (in) Snow Depth (in)
Center Ridge (1880') 27  .8  52 
Summit Lake (1400') 26  .1  24 
Alyeska Mid (1700') 26  .8  53 


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

  Temp Avg (F) Wind Dir Wind Avg (mph) Wind Gust (mph)
Sunburst (3812') 18  ENE  27  74 
Seattle Ridge(2400') 20  SE  22  55 

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

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
© 2019 Chugach National Forest Avalanche Information Center. All rights reserved.