Avalanche Advisory

Turnagain Area Avalanche Advisory
Tuesday, February 14th 2017 7:00 am by Heather Thamm
ARCHIVED ADVISORY - All advisories expire after 24 hours from the posting date/time.
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The Bottom Line

Above freezing temperatures, heavy snowfall, rain and strong winds are keeping the avalanche danger at HIGH for all elevations around Turnagain Pass, Placer Valley and Girdwood. An Avalanche Warning has been issued for Turnagain Pass, the Kenai Mountains and Western Chugach Mountains and will remain in effect through 6am tomorrow, Feb.15.  Travel is not recommended in avalanche terrain where natural avalanches are likely occurring due to rapid loading. Later in the day as heavy precipitation and strong winds diminish above freezing temperatures will keep the avalanche danger elevated. 

Summit Lake: Expect the avalanche danger to remain elevated due to warm temps, strong winds and recent precipitation. Click HERE for the weakly Summit Lake Summary.  


 Show the Complete North American Avalanche Danger Scale
4 High Alpine / Above 2,500' Travel Advice: Very dangerous avalanche conditions. Travel in avalanche terrain not recommended.
4 High Treeline / 1,000'-2,500' Travel Advice: Very dangerous avalanche conditions. Travel in avalanche terrain not recommended.
4 High Below Treeline / Below 1,000' Travel Advice: Very dangerous avalanche conditions. Travel in avalanche terrain not recommended.
Special Announcement

Recent precipitation, strong winds and above freezing temperatures have created dangerous avalanches conditions throughout Southcenral, AK including Seward/Lost Lake, Anchorage Front Range, and Hatcher Pass. 

There will be intermittent traffic delays Tuesday, February 14, 2017 on the Seward Highway for avalanche hazard reduction work between Bird and Portage near mileposts 100 to 80.  Motorists should expect delays of up to 1 hour between 8:30 am and 2:00 PM.

Have you purchased your tickets yet for the 3rd Annual SNOWBALL?? If not, get them HERE!! Come out, get your groove on, win some door prizes, bid on some amazing silent auction items and support avalanche safety and education! All proceeds to benefit Alaska Avalanche School and Friends of the Chugach National Forest Avalanche Information Center.


Avalanche Problem 1

Numerous natural avalanches were observed yesterday and natural activity is expected throughout the day with continued weather impacting our region. This includes large natural slab avalanches 2-5’ thick in the alpine and wet avalanches below 2000’ due to heavy rain and above freezing temperatures. Avalanche activity could run the full length of a slope, thus it will be important to stay off any slopes greater than 30 degrees and avoid being near any runout zones today. This set up could be a hazard even in the Tincan Trees where a small terrain features could have high consequences. In channeled terrain an avalanche from above could easily entrain wet snow in the lower elevations and run further than expected. This will be especially important in places like Portage Valley, Johnson Pass trail and the flats below Seattle Ridge. 

Storm totals for Turnagain Pass over the last two days are estimated around 2-3’ in the alpine with an additional 10-12” possible today. For the second evening in a row ridgetop winds from the East (SE to NE) have picked up into the 40s and 50s mph and early this morning several gusts reached over 100 mph at Sunburst weather station. Above freezing temperatures have been recorded at Center Ridge weather station (1800’) and its possible that rain/snow line may reach 2000’ by this afternoon.

In the afternoon temperatures are expected to increase as precipitation and winds back off. Similar to yesterday natural activity may increase with a little afternoon sun and/or above freezing temps in the upper elevations. Again it will be important to avoid ALL steep terrain and maintain a conservative distance from all run-out zones.  

Avoidance of avalanche terrain is the only way to “manage” this problem today. 

A natural avalanche observed in Portage Valley yesterday afternoon near Williwaw Campground. This avalanche was well away from the road cooridor.



Partial clearing in the afternoon allowed the DOT web cam to catch this avalanche some time after it released on Tincan, CFR ridge. It was first noticed at 2:35pm on the web cam, but this is the best photo. 


Wet loose activity was observed on many slopes after the sun appeared briefly in the afternoon. Photo taken near Portage turn.




Avalanche Problem 2

Weak snow (facets and depth hoar) in the lower layers of the snowpack continues to be a concern in our advisory area. Today avalanches occurring in the upper layers have the potential to step down and release the entire snowpack in some places. If this does happen the volume will be large and could run long distances. 

Travel in avalanche terrain is not recommended today including being in the runout of a steep slope.

Mountain Weather

Yesterday above freezing temperatures were observed along Turnagain Pass with a partial clearing late afternoon, where the sun was observed briefly. Strong (40-50mph) Easterly ridge top winds decreased to moderate (20-30mph) in the afternoon. Overnight ridge top wind increased into the 40-60’s mph range with several gusts in the 90-100mph mph’s on Sunburst weather station. In the last 24 hour (6am to 6am) about 12-15” of snow fell in upper elevations (1” of H2O) in Turngain Pass and 15-20” of snow (1.5” H20) in Girdwood.  

Today as an intense front moves through our region heavy precipitation is expected to last through mid morning, this is snow above 2000’, with an additional 10-12” of snow. Strong Easterly ridgetop winds are expected to decrease into the 20-30mph range by early afternoon, but expect gusts to still be in the 40’s mph. Expect above freezing temperatures into mid elevations and rain/snow line to be as high as 2000’. 

Tonight temperatures are expected to cool and winds will deminish. Cooler temperatures are expected into this week and more precipitation will hopefully bring snow instead of rain to lower elevations throughout the week.

*Seattle Weather station was not working for part of the day yesterday and there appears to be an issue with the temperatures sensor.

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

  Temp Avg (F) Snow (in) Water (in) Snow Depth (in)
Center Ridge (1880') 36  11  1.0  74 
Summit Lake (1400') 34  .3  27 
Alyeska Mid (1700') 33  1.45  62 


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

  Temp Avg (F) Wind Dir Wind Avg (mph) Wind Gust (mph)
Sunburst (3812') 25  ENE   39 107 
Seattle Ridge(2400') *n/a *SE  *20  *51 

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: May 06, 2019 )

Glacier District
Johnson Pass: ClosedClosed as of 4.3.19
Placer River: ClosedClosed as of 3.20.19 due to lack of snow.
Skookum Drainage: ClosedPlacer access closed as of 3.20.19 due to lack of snow.
Turnagain Pass: ClosedClosed as of 5/6. Thanks for a great season all, see you next winter!
Twentymile: ClosedClosed as of 3.20.19 due to lack of snow.
Seward District
Carter Lake: Closed
Lost Lake Trail: ClosedClosed as of 3.22.19 due to lack of snow
Primrose Trail: ClosedClosed as of 4.3.19 due to lack of snow
Resurrection Pass Trail: ClosedClosed for the 2018/19 season. Next season will be open to motorized use.
Snug Harbor: ClosedClose as of 5.1.2019
South Fork Snow River Corridor: ClosedClosed as of 3.20.19 due to lack of snow.
Summit Lake: Closed

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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.

If you have comments or questions regarding CNFAIC operations or winter recreation management, please email
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