Avalanche Advisory

Turnagain Area Avalanche Advisory
Thursday, December 21st 2017 7:00 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

A  MODERATE avalanche danger exists in the Alpine.  On the high elevations slopes (above 3,000') triggering a deep slab avalanche breaking near the ground is possible and may be triggered remotely.  Additionally, wind slabs are possible in leeward terrain.  Heightened avalanche conditions on specific terrain features. Evaluate snow and terrain carefully. 

The avalanche danger below 2500' is LOW where the snowpack is predominately thick layers of melt-freeze crust and triggering an avalanche is unlikely. 

There is no hazard below 1,000' due to lack of snow.

*Please remember your safe travel practices! This includes, exposing one person at a time in avalanche terrain, watching your partners, being rescue ready and having an escape route planned.


 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.
0 NO RATING Below Treeline / Below 1,000'
Special Announcement

TONIGHT! CNFAIC Fireside Chat: Avalanche Lessons Learned from Last Season (and a quick look at what's happening in the snowpack this season). December 21st at Powder Hound Ski Shop in Girdwood, 6:30-8 pm with Aleph Johnston-Bloom. We hope to see you there!


Avalanche Problem 1

Yesterday a party on Pastoral found the trigger point for a large (D3: could bury and destroy a car, damage a truck, destroy a wood frame house, or break a few trees) deep slab avalanche. The crown depth was estimated to be around 10 ft. deep. This avalanche was triggered from below as the two were crossing the slope. They reported, "It sounded like a distant explosion when it went, then we heard and felt the snowpack below us drop several inches." When this was triggered it also sympathetically released a slope approximately half a mile away.  Last Friday the forecast said, "This deep persistent slab problem and will be guilty until proven innocent.  The 1st person on the slope or the 10th might trigger this type of avalanche. It is a total roll of the dice or Russian roulette set-up. Finding the shallow spot could have devastating results. This type of avalanche would be unsurvivable. There may be no obvious clues to indicate instability and digging to find the weak layer could be challenging."  The verdict is out. This snowpack set-up is guilty and could be a scary issue for quite a while. The combination of faceted snow on or under a crust near the ground with a stiff slab above makes for an instability that is contiguous over terrain. A collapse of the weak layer in one spot can propagate/communicate a failure across the area. Translation: I step here. It avalanches over there. The way to manage this is to avoid avalanche terrain specifically in the Alpine. Shallow areas are more likely to be trigger points to cause the failure. This avalanche emphasizes paying attention to what is above you, what the terrain you are on is connected to and where other groups are. Thanks to the party involved for sharing details and all the other observations submitted.

  • Triggering a dangerous deep slab avalanche is still possible above 3,000'. The avalanche yesterday was triggered around 3600' and released at approximately 4200'.
  • Shallow snowpack areas are most concerning (more trigger points and possibly more reactive facets).
  • No red flags (recent avalanches, shooting cracks or whumpfs) are likely to be present to indicate an unstable snowpack. The party involved reported that there were tracks on the slope from the day before and no signs of instability (red flags) observed.
  •  It might not be the first person on the slope that triggers the avalanche and remote triggering is possible.

Photo: Mike Ausman

 Crown photo: Mike Ausman

Photo of debris: Stephen Ellison

Avalanche Problem 2

Yesterday observers reported stiff wind affected snow in the Alpine. There is still snow to move around and winds are forecasted to be easterly, gusting into the 40s today. Wind slabs will be possible on steep, leeward, loaded slopes. Look for drifting, cracking and pay attention to stiff snow under foot.  Even a small wind slab can be very dangerous in high consequence terrain.  In addition, give cornices a wide berth. They have been growing with each new snow and loading event. 



Wind loading and cornice along  -1/Warm-up Bowl.

Mountain Weather

Yesterday was partly cloudy. Winds were westerly 10-20 gusting into the 30s. Temperatures were in the 20Fs. Overnight skies cleared and temperatures cooled into the low 20Fs and teens as an inversion set-up.

Today will be clear and sunny with some valley fog. Temperatures will be in the teens and low 20s. Winds will be easterly 15-25 gusting into the 40s. They are forecasted to increase tonight into Friday. 

Friday will be partly cloudy with a chance of snow. Easterly winds will blow 30-40 mph with gusts into the 50s. Temperatures will be in the mid 20Fs to low 30s. Saturday looks to be partly sunny as the storm track for the weekend has shifted and there is less precipitation forecasted for the advisory area but we may get a few inches for the holiday. 

* Sunburst weather station is down due to loss of battery power.

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

  Temp Avg (F) Snow (in) Water (in) Snow Depth (in)
Center Ridge (1880') 27   0  0 32 
Summit Lake (1400') 16  0  0 12 
Alyeska Mid (1700') 26  0  28


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

  Temp Avg (F) Wind Dir Wind Avg (mph) Wind Gust (mph)
Sunburst (3812') *n/a  *n/a  *n/a  *n/a 
Seattle Ridge(2400')  22  W  8 25 

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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