Avalanche Advisory

Turnagain Area Avalanche Advisory
Sunday, December 30th 2018 7:00 am by Wendy Wagner
ARCHIVED ADVISORY - All advisories expire after 24 hours from the posting date/time.
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The Bottom Line

Strong wind with snowfall today, plus heavy snowfall tonight, will increase the avalanche danger to CONSIDERABLE through the day and may reach HIGH danger by early tomorrow morning. Wind slabs are forming now and may release naturally and storm snow avalanches will become likely once snowfall rates pick up. Timing for naturally occurring avalanches depends on the storm. Careful terrain selection as well as snowpack and weather evaluation in necessary if traveling into the backcountry. A MODERATE danger exists below treeline where avalanches occurring above may send debris.

SUMMIT LAKE / JOHNSON PASS / LYNX DRAINAGE:  South of Turnagain Pass, new snow and wind may overload weak layers near the ground and larger avalanches may occur with this storm. 

PORTAGE and PLACER VALLEY:  Heavier snowfall rates are expected and large avalanches above treeline may send debris to sea level and over summer hiking trails such as Byron Glacier Trail.

 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.
2 Moderate Below Treeline / Below 1,000' Travel Advice: Heightened avalanche conditions on specific terrain features. Evaluate snow and terrain carefully; identify features of concern.
Special Announcement

If you are considering Hatcher Pass today, PLEASE check HPAC's Saturday avalanche forecast. A close call occurred at Hatcher  on Friday and tricky snowpack conditions exist, report HERE

Avalanche Problem 1

Storm Slabs

Almost Certain
Very Likely


Very Large


The National Weather Service has issued a WINTER STORM WARNING for Portage Valley, Eastern Turnagain Arm and Turnagain Pass. 

Blizzard conditions are expected today along roadways from Girdwood to Seward. This should be one of the first Red Flags noted for a day in the backcountry. Snowfall should begin this morning and pick up in earnest overnight. Although only 4-6" is expected to accumulate through the daylight hours, ridgetop winds are already cranking up (30mph with gusts to 60mph from the east). Another Red Flag. An additional 10-14" of snow is expected from 6pm tonight to 6am tomorrow morning. Visibility will be hampered as usual when it's stormy and all this said, knowing where avalanche terrain is and isn't will be key for today.

Avalanche activity will be in the form of fresh wind slabs, cornice falls, new storm slabs and sluffs in the new snow. Wind slab avalanches are forming now as there is plenty of loose snow available for transport. Any fresh wind slab found should be easy for a human to trigger. Storm slabs will be an issue once snowfall rates increase, which could be later today. If heading out into the backcountry, pay close attention to fresh wind slabs forming and new snow amounts. Winds could make it down into the trees today, so look for shooting cracks and slabs in areas that may not be common to have them.

If choosing to avoid all these developing avalanche issues, avoid avalanche terrain or head to your local ski area!

Avalanche Problem 2

Glide Avalanches

Almost Certain
Very Likely


Very Large


Glide avalanches are a real concern as these have been releasing over the past week. The most recent release of a glide crack was noted yesterday on Lipps - photos below. Corn Biscuit also had a recent release. Once skies clear (possibly tomorrow), pay close attention to cracks and limit as much time under them as possible - they are moving! 



Photo of Lipps avalanche on left, taken from the Johnson Pass turn off by Dan Beutel. Close of same avalanche taken by Andy Moderow from Pete's North ridge.


Glide crack on SW aspect of Magnum opened after ski tracks were layed down last week - just to the east of PMS Bowl (photo: Andy Moderow)


Lynx creek clide new cracks and old avalanche release - these look prime to release and anytime (photo Andy Moderow)


Additional Concern

Persistent Slabs

South of Turnagain:  As we have been mentioning for some time, a shallow and poor snowpack structure exists in the Summit Lake zone. Buried weak layers of facets associated with crusts sit 1-3' below the surface near the base of the snowpack. It will be interesting to see if this series of storms overloads them and large avalanches breaking near the ground result. 

Mountain Weather

Yesterday:  Mostly cloudy to obscured skies with patchy valley fog. Light precipitation over the past 24-hours only added an inch of snow to Girdwood Valley and a trace at Turnagain. Ridgetop winds were light and variable until ramping up to the 20-30mph range at 0200 this morning with gusts to 50mph from the NE. This is due to the next system moving in currently. Temperatures cooled yesterday to the teens along ridgetops and 25F at 1,000' yet have climbed back up early this morning to 20'F along ridgelines and 30F at 1,000.

Today:  The first in a series of warmer storms will hit today. Snowfall should begin this morning with 4-6" accumulating today. Snowfall rates look to increase tonight with another 10-14" expected by tomorrow morning. The rain/snow will start at sea level and increase steadily to 1,000-1,500' overnight. Ridgetop winds will be in the 30-50mph range with gusts to 80-90mph. Temperatures will rise to near 32F at 1,000' this evening and to the upper 20's along ridgelines. 

Tomorrow:  A quick break in weather is expected Monday before another system hits Monday night into Tuesday. Although a break in precipitation and cloud cover may occur Monday, ridgetop winds at this point look to remain strong.

*Seattle Ridge weather station was heavily rimed and the anemometer (wind sensor) was destroyed.  

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

  Temp Avg (F) Snow (in) Water (in) Snow Depth (in)
Center Ridge (1880') 25  trace  53 
Summit Lake (1400') 21  12
Alyeska Mid (1700') 26  1 0.1  36 


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

  Temp Avg (F) Wind Dir Wind Avg (mph) Wind Gust (mph)
Sunburst (3812') 18  ENE  10  56 
Seattle Ridge(2400') 23  *N/A  *N/A   *N/A  

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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