Avalanche Advisory

Turnagain Area Avalanche Advisory
Thursday, April 20th 2017 4:34 am by Aleph Johnston-Bloom
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 1000' On steep Southerly facing slopes in the afternoon and evening, triggering wet slab and wet loose avalanches will be possible as the sun heats up and softens Southerly (SE-S-SW) aspects. Paying attention to aspect and time of day are crucial. Watch for changing conditions as the sun affects colder aspects more and more each day. On Northerly slopes, where dry snow exists, there is still a chance of triggering a deeper persistent slab avalanche 2-5+' thick.  Avoid travel on or under cornices and give glide cracks a wide berth. 

Below 1000' the avalanche danger is LOW. Triggering an avalanche is unlikely. It is still important to pay attention to runout from higher elevation terrain. 


No avalanche forecast will be issued tomorrow, Friday April 21st. The avalanche outlook will be the same message due to a similar weather forecast, however temperatures are creeping up each day with less and less of an overnight freeze. The danger could rise to CONSIDERABLE if temperatures do not go below freezing overnight tonight.  

 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.
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.
1 Low Below Treeline / Below 1,000' Travel Advice: Generally safe avalanche conditions. Watch for unstable snow on isolated terrain features.
Special Announcement
  • The CNFAIC has started wrapping up the season. During the last 2 weeks of April we will issue forecasts on Sunday, Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday mornings until the end of the month. The Avalanche Center will close up shop on April 30th. We do however, always monitor/post any observations that come in all spring and summer - so please keep us, and the community, posted on any snow/avalanche information you may come across on your upcoming adventures!
  • We have stopped issuing our Saturday Summit Summary for the 2016/17 season. Click HERE for our Springtime Avalanche tips.
  • Hiking on summer trails (including the Byron Glacier trail, Crow Pass and Turnagain Arm Trail a.k.a the bike path, etc).  Extra caution is advised during the afternoon and evening hours for trails that cross under avalanche paths. Avalanches possible at the higher elevations could send debris over snow-free hiking trails. 

Avalanche Problem 1

We have not observed or received any reports of natural avalanche activity with the exception of glide releases in the past two days.  The temperatures have been dipping below freezing every night but have been slowly climbing again over the past two days. Warmer temperatures and longer days with direct sunshine on slopes means that the melt-freeze cycle is slowly migrating to colder aspects (specifically W-NW). Today and tomorrow it will be important to pay close attention to how the warming is affecting the pack. We are in a melt-freeze cycle on Southerly (SE-S-SW) slopes - hard frozen crusts in the morning, which turn to unsupportable mushy and unstable snow by the afternoon/evening, the less of a freeze the greater the likelihood of wet avalanches. Choosing what aspect to travel on, paying attention to the time of day and how long the slope you are on has been exposed to direct sunlight are essential to staying out of trouble.  As colder aspects heat up remember cold snow, persistent weak layers and free water are a bad combination.  Watch for roller balls and natural wet loose avalanches indicating surface warming. Wet loose snow avalanches may also trigger deeper slabs.

 If heading out for a fun day in the sun keep these points in mind:

  • Once the snowpack becomes so wet it is unsupportable and 'punchy' to skis, snowmachines or boots - it's time to head to a cooler aspect. 
  • The steeper the Southerly slope, the more it will warm and the more dangerous it will be.
  • Buried weak layers in the pack can make a small avalanche or sluff become bigger by propagating across the slope and/or stepping down. 
  • Wet avalanches are hard to escape if you get caught and a small slide can be deadly if it pushes you into a terrain trap. 
  • Rocky areas that are absorbing more heat should be avoided.

Click HERE for a great dicussion from the forecasters at Avalanche Canada on managing spring avalanche conditions.

Magnum, Super Bowl and Cornbicuit from the heli. A good look at shaded versus solar aspects. Choosing aspect is crucial this time of year. Photo: Graham Predeger

Cornices: Cornices are large and likely hanging close to their tipping point due to warm temperatures. Direct sunshine, a person, or a group of people on top these could be enough to cause one to break. Cornice crevasses have also been noted (opening slots where the cornice is pulling away from the ridge but has not broken off. Give cornices a wide berth from above and limit exposure under them from below. 

Avalanche Problem 2

Eddies south side looks similar to the glide carnage of last year. Several glide avalanches have released and existing cracks are opening each day.  Seattle Ridge is also littered with opening cracks as well as the south side of Tincan. There was a new glide release observed in Lynx Creek yesterday. We expect this trend to continue today and tomorrow. Keep an eye out for glide cracks and limit time underneath them. Remember they are the entire snowpack releasing to the ground without warning. 



Eddies RWIS camera capturing a glide release just after 7 pm last night


Eddies glide avalanches. Photo: Jessie Haffener & Sam Galoob

Tincan glide cracks. Photo: Jessie Haffener & Sam Galoob


Additional Concern

In this springtime transition it is important to remember on the shaded and cooler side of the mountains, Northerly aspects, a cold mostly dry snowpack exists. Afternoon warming may also influence how easy it is to trigger weak layers that are buried anywhere from 2-5' below the surface. As folks venture out looking for "cold, soft snow" this remains a concern. Shaded aspects in the mid and upper elevations that haven’t avalanched already are the most suspect places for triggering a deeper slab.  On Monday the 4th skier on a slope in Triangle Bowl triggered a slab that ran on the April Fool's storm rain crust. As the solar effect creeps onto more northerly slopes the interaction between cold snow and melt water also become more of a concern. 

This problem is one of low probability but high consequence as these are potentially large and unsurvivable slides.

Keep these points in mind:  

  • It will take someone hitting a 'thin spot' in the slab, or a large trigger such as a snowmachine and/or groups of people or a cornice fall.. 
  • There may be no signs of instability before the slope shatters 
  • Several tracks may be on a slope before it releases
  • Stability tests may not produce any notable results

Mountain Weather

Yesterday was mostly clear and sunny with a few scattered clouds. Temperatures climbed into the high 40Fs in the lower elevations and into the mid 30Fs at upper elevations. Easterly winds were 5-15 mph gusting to 20mph. Temperatures dropped to freezing or below overnight.

Today will be clear and sunny again. Temperatures will be in the high 40Fs at lower elevations and the mid to high 30Fs at upper elevations. Winds will be light and variable. Temperatures will again drop to the low 30Fs or below tonight.

Tomorrow looks to be similar if not slightly warmer. Clouds will start moving in Friday night with a chance of rain/snow showers on Saturday. A series of lows are forecasted to move into the Gulf bringing rain and snow to the area into next week.  

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

  Temp Avg (F) Snow (in) Water (in) Snow Depth (in)
Center Ridge (1880') 40   0 62 
Summit Lake (1400')  34  0  20
Alyeska Mid (1700')  36  0  0  56


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

  Temp Avg (F) Wind Dir Wind Avg (mph) Wind Gust (mph)
Sunburst (3812')  30  E 12 
Seattle Ridge(2400')  No Data SE  20 

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: Mar 15, 2018 )

Glacier District
Johnson Pass: Open
Placer River: OpenPlease avoid private property and AKRR job site at Luebner Lake. Cross railroad tracks if needed, do not ride down tracks, it is illegal.
Skookum Drainage: OpenCross railroad tracks if needed, do not ride down tracks, it is illegal. FYI, Skookum drainage closes to Snowmachines on 4/1 as per the Chugach NF plan.
Turnagain Pass: Open
Twentymile: OpenCross railroad tracks at designated spot as you leave the parking area.
Seward District
Carter Lake: Open
Lost Lake Trail: Open
Primrose Trail: Open
Resurrection Pass Trail: OpenResurrection Pass trail is open to snowmachine use during the 2017/18 winter season.
Snug Harbor: Open
South Fork Snow River Corridor: Open
Summit Lake: Open

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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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