Avalanche Advisory

Turnagain Area Avalanche Advisory
Monday, February 27th 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

The avalanche danger is MODERATE above 2,000' in the Alpine where triggering a fresh wind slab is possible today. There also remains a possibility of triggering a more stubborn, and more dangerous avalanche 2-3' deep on all aspects. If winds increase beyond the forecasted 10-25mph range today, avalanche danger may increase to CONSIDERABLE in the Alpine. Be prepared to change plans if conditions worsen. In addition be aware of cornices, surface sluff, and a glide crack that has formed on Seattle Ridge. 

Below 2,000' there is a LOW danger where triggering an avalanche is unlikely due to a snowpack consisting of hard crusts.

In Summit Lake, Girdwood, and on the southern end of Turnagain near Johnson Pass triggering a deeper more dangerous avalanche near the ground is still possible, but will be hard to trigger.

Check out the Saturday Summit Summary HERE.

 Show the Complete North American Avalanche Danger Scale
2 Moderate Alpine / Above 2,500' Travel Advice: Heightened avalanche conditions on specific terrain features. Evaluate snow and terrain carefully; identify features of concern.
1 Low Treeline / 1,000'-2,500' Travel Advice: Generally safe avalanche conditions. Watch for unstable snow on isolated terrain features.
1 Low Below Treeline / Below 1,000' Travel Advice: Generally safe avalanche conditions. Watch for unstable snow on isolated terrain features.
Special Announcement

Elevated avalanche danger exists in Hatcher Pass. Click HERE for a several reports about a human triggered slab avalanche near Hatch Peak on Saturday. Click HERE for the Hatcher Pass Avalanche Center weekend advisory and more info about the snowpack.

Friends of the Chugach National Forest Avalanche Center is an official Pick. Click. Give. organization. When you apply for your PFD please considering supporting your public avalanche center!!

Avalanche Problem 1

Today expect ridgetop winds from the Northwest to steadily increase this afternoon ranging from 10-25mph with gusts reaching the 30-40's mph. This wind direction can funnel through parts of Turnagin Pass from more of a Southerly direction. Be aware that loading may occur on a variety of aspects depending on which side of the road you are on. There is about 6 inches of snow available for transport and wind slabs are anticipated to grow to 10 -12” range.  Watch for pillowed or drifted snow or where the snow may feel stiff and ”upside down,” and identify steep features like convexities or gullies where a shallow wind slab could knock you off our feet. The avalanche danger will depend on how much snow is being transported. If large plumes of blowing snow are observed, this could add stress to existing weak layers deeper in the pack, and make it easier to trigger a deeper more dangerous slab. More details in Secondary Concern below. Be prepared to change plans if you see any obvious signs of instability; shooting cracks, recent avalanches or collapsing "whumpfing" sounds. 

Typical loading patterns of wind slabs

Skier triggered "sluff" on Corn Biscuits West face and a good example of the top 6" of loose surface snow that is available for transport if winds pick up today. 


Avalanche Problem 2

Above 2000' a widespread layer of buried surface hoar remains a concern on steep slopes, where triggering an avalanche 2-3’ deep has become stubborn due to a stabilizing snowpack. Relatively calm weather this week has allowed for folks to push further into the mountains with no reports of avalanche activity since last Saturday (2/18). However, increasing winds today may add additional stress and triggering a persistent slab avalanche could have high consequences. Triggering this avalanche will be more possible in steep terrain and in places where the snowpack is thinner - near rock bands or on more scoured features. Also, these slabs can break above you, and release after several tracks are on a slope. Be aware that snow pits and stability tests may not be representative of the actual slope you are trying to assess. A helpful way to think about this problem is to consider the consequences of a slope if it slides and identify and avoid terrain traps (gullies, cliffs, or trees below). Change your plans and avoid steep terrain should you see rapid loading due to blowing snow. 

Deep Persistent Slab: We continue to find various layers of weak faceted snow and depth hoar near the bottom of the pack in certain areas. This includes Summit Lake zone, and some areas in Girdwood Valley and towards the Southern end of Turnagain near Johnson Pass. Similar to the problem above, these layers will be very tough to trigger, but a possibility remains in places with this structure.

Additional Concern

Cornices: Winds today may add stress to already large cornices.  Remember these unpredictable hazards can break farther back onto a ridge than expected and have the potential to trigger an avalanche on the slope below. Give cornices extra space and avoid being under them. 

Loose snow avalanches: The top 6” of surface snow is loose and sluffs may be easy to initiate and fast moving on steep terrain features protected from the winds. 

Glide avalanches: There is a new glide crack above the flats along Seattle Ridge, just looker's left of the up-track and Repeat Offender slide path. Avoid hanging out under this crack and any others you may see.

A large cornice above Magnum's SW face. Photo taken yesterday by Aleph Johnston-Bloom. 

Mountain Weather

Yesterday skies were mostly sunny and temperatures reached the mid 30F’s during the heat of the day. Westerly winds were observed throughout our region averaging around 10mph with gusts in the 20’s mph. Low valley fog moved into Turnagain Arm towards Portage Valley late afternoon along with cooler temperatures overnight.    

Today skies are expected to become cloudy causing valley fog to lift. There is a chance for light flurries. Northwest ridgetop winds (10-25mph) are expected to increase throughout the day. Sustained winds could reach the mid 20’s mph by mid afternoon, with gust in the 30-40’s mph. Temperatures will start drop by late evening, and may reach the single digits overnight. 

Cold off shore flow is expected to continue over the next few days bringing more sustained ridge top winds and cold temps as high pressure settles in over interior Alaska. This pattern is expected to dominate Southcentral, AK for the next week. Today’s weather discussion warns; “Old man winter is going to make a forceful return, reminding Alaskans that Spring is most definitely not here yet.”

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

  Temp Avg (F) Snow (in) Water (in) Snow Depth (in)
Center Ridge (1880') 26  65 
Summit Lake (1400') 26   0 31 
Alyeska Mid (1700') 27  60 


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

  Temp Avg (F) Wind Dir Wind Avg (mph) Wind Gust (mph)
Sunburst (3812') 20  23 
Seattle Ridge(2400') 25  NW  10  33 

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.

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