Avalanche Advisory

Turnagain Area Avalanche Advisory
Saturday, December 30th 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

The avalanche danger could rise to CONSIDERABLE late in the day due to increasing wind and new snow landing on weak surface snow. Pay attention to changing conditions. There is a Winter Storm Watch in effect.

Before the snow and wind start:

There is a MODERATE avalanche danger in the alpine, above 3,000’ where triggering a large and dangerous deep slab avalanche is possible due to weak snow near the ground. Triggering an isolated hard wind slab is still possible on steep leeward features or on unsupported terrain in the alpine. Heightened avalanche conditions exist on specific terrain features. Evaluate snow and terrain carefully.

The avalanche danger is LOW at Treeline. LOW danger does not mean NO danger. Pockets of unstable snow are not out of the question if you find yourself in very steep terrain, below 2500’. There is no hazard rating below 1,000’ due to a lack of snow.   

**Click HERE for the Saturday Summit Lake Summary.


 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.
3 Considerable Treeline / 1,000'-2,500' Travel Advice: Dangerous avalanche conditions. Careful snowpack evaluation, cautious routefinding and conservative decision-making essential.
0 NO RATING Below Treeline / Below 1,000'
Special Announcement


Check out the Near Miss Final Report for the December 20th human triggered Pastoral avalanche HERE. Thanks again to the party involved for sharing their story.

If you are headed to Hatcher Pass get the Saturday forecast here at 


Avalanche Problem 1

Today is a transition day. We have had mostly cold clear weather with no precipitation for the last few days. This afternoon the winds are forecasted to pick up and snow should start falling. The new snow will be falling on very weak surface snow. There is widespread surface hoar, with near-surface facets below or hard wind crust or firm melt-freeze crust.  None of these old snow surfaces bode well for snow bonding to them. As the weather comes in today it will be important to pay attention to changing conditions. Slabs may form quickly, especially in leeward terrain. Quick hand pits can help check if the new snow is sticking to the old snow surfaces or not. The weak surface snow can also act as a few inches of fast moving loose surface snow “sluff” that could catch you by surprise if you’re not expecting it in steep terrain.

In addition, as you are out recreating today keep in mind triggering an old wind slab is still possible on very steep terrain in the alpine zone. Places you might find a hard wind slab will be in steep couloirs, large unsupported terrain features, or in thin rocky areas. Triggering a wind slab in the Treeline zone is becoming less likely, but is not out of the question in high consequence terrain. Triggering a wind slab could take you for an undesirable ride, and has the potential for initiating a much larger and more dangerous avalanche above 3000'. Be suspect of any slopes that may harbor a deep slab problem in the upper elevations.

Surface hoar over near surface faceted snow over a melt freeze crust on Seattle Ridge.

Avalanche Problem 2

It has been over a week since a large avalanche was triggered on Pastoral by two skiers traveling below the NW face. If you have been reading the forecast regularly we are not trying sound like a broken record but the message is the same. This snow pack set-up continues to warrant elevated caution and respect. It is a high consequence avalanche problem that is impossible to outsmart and can take a long time to heal. The ingredients for a deep slab avalanche have been found in the upper elevations of our forecast zone, above 3000’ on slopes that did not avalanche in the early December storm cycle. This is a hard slab, 3-5+ feet thick, sitting on top of weak sugary snow (basal facets) near the ground. Observations over the last few weeks indicate this poor structure is widespread across our region in the alpine elevations. As the load increases over this snowpack structure during the upcoming storms there will be the potential for large natural avalanches.

When dealing with a deep slab avalanche problem, keep in mind:

  • Large snow covered slopes that do not have large piles of old debris under them are all suspect 
  • Thinner areas of the snowpack (1-2 feet thick) are likely trigger spots as well as scoured areas near rocks   
  • It is possible to trigger this avalanche from below and it could run further than expected 
  • Snow depths are highly variable and there may be more trigger spots than we realize
  • Several tracks on a slope do not mean the conditions are safe. It could be the 2nd, 3rd or 10th person on a slope before someone finds a trigger spot.

Weak faceted snow near the ground continues to be reactive and signal propagation potential in test pits in the alpine. Check out a video HERE and observation from Magnum on 12/27/17 HERE

Mountain Weather

Yesterday was overcast with temperatures in the teens and low 20Fs. Winds were easterly 5-15 with gusts into the 20s. Overnight the temperatures rose a little. 

Today will be mostly cloudy with a chance of snow showers in the morning and snow likely in the afternoon. 1-5" during the day. Winds will be easterly building this afternoon into the evening, 10-20 mph with gusts into the 30s and 40s. Temperatures will be in the 20Fs. 

Tonight the snow is forecasted to be heavy at times, 6-12". Easterly winds could into gust into the 60s. Temperatures stay in the 20Fs. There is a Winter Storm Watch in effect. 

Tomorrow will be cloudy with snow likely and heavy at times, 7-10". Winds will be 10-20 mph with gusts into the 30s. Temperatures will slowly rise with a potential for some "mixed" precipitation at lower elevations. The storm will continue into the New Year.  The pattern is very active this week with another system on track for Tuesday. Stay tuned!

The National Weather Service is forecasting 2'+ for Turnagain Pass by Monday.

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

  Temp Avg (F) Snow (in) Water (in) Snow Depth (in)
Center Ridge (1880') 20  30 
Summit Lake (1400') 17  0 12 
Alyeska Mid (1700') 21   0  26


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

  Temp Avg (F) Wind Dir Wind Avg (mph) Wind Gust (mph)
Sunburst (3812')  15 10 21 
Seattle Ridge(2400')  17 E 15  28 

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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