Avalanche Advisory

Turnagain Area Avalanche Advisory
Monday, January 14th 2019 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 is CONSIDERABLE on slopes above 1,000'. Human triggered slab avalanches, 1-3' thick, will be likely and may be triggered remotely in the Alpine and in areas exposed to wind in the Treeline elevation band. Careful snowpack evaluation, cautious route finding and conservative decision-making are essential today. In addition, glide cracks may release into avalanches; limit/avoid exposure under them. 

SUMMIT LAKE / JOHNSON PASS: Keep in mind buried weak layers exist in the middle and base of the snowpack. More potential for triggering a large slab avalanche exists in this zone, especially in terrain that was recently wind-loaded. 

OVERHEAD HAZARDS: Heads up! With another day of above freezing temperatures near sea level, roof avalanches are a hazard in Girdwood and Portage.

 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.
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Avalanche Problem 1

Wind Slabs

Almost Certain
Very Likely


Very Large


Human triggered (skier or snowmachiner) wind slabs are likely today on wind-loaded slopes steeper than 30 degrees. Be on the lookout for recent avalanches and shooting cracks and listen for hollow sounds and whumpfs, these are all Red Flags that an avalanche will be easy to trigger. Ridgetop winds have been blowing strong from the east (20-30mph with gusts up to 60 mph) for a day and half. This combined with old soft snow available for transport and the new snow that fell over the weekend is a perfect recipe for wind slabs. Observers yesterday reported shooting cracks and touchy "connected" wind slabs. There is very weak snow ("sugary" facets and surface hoar that formed during our cold/clear period) under the wind-affected snow. Due to this set-up remote triggering is a possibility. Choose terrain carefully. Slabs are likely to be in the foot thick range in general, but could reach as thick as 2-3' along the tops of ridgelines and could range from soft to stiff. Upper elevations in Girdwood Valley received more snow than Turnagain Pass, expect slabs to be thicker in this zone. 

Storm Slabs: Warming temperatures caused an upside-down storm, which may have created shallow storm slabs in areas protected from the wind. Again, watch for cracking and carefully evaluate the storm snow today.

Cornices: Wind and new snow combined with the rapid rise in temperature may have made cornices sensitive to triggering. Cornice falls are possible today and may trigger slabs under them. 

***Note the Sunburst winds on January 12th and 13th.

Weak snow (surface hoar and near surface facets) is now buried under new and/or wind affected snow, photo from 1-12-19 at the start of the storm. 

Avalanche Problem 2

Persistent Slabs

Almost Certain
Very Likely


Very Large


South of Turnagain - Johnson Pass/Summit Lake zone: A poor snowpack structure exists in these areas and strong winds over the past two days have loaded leeward slopes.  In addition to the recently buried weak surface snow the Christmas buried surface hoar has been found; as well as concerning facet/crust combinations in the bottom of the snowpack. Avalanches may initiate near the ground and be quite dangerous. If you're headed this way, evaluate terrain exposure and the snowpack as you travel. Be on the lookout for signs of instability. 

Additional Concern

Glide Avalanches

Glide cracks are likely to become hard to identify with snow/wind filling them in. Known areas with cracks are the southerly facing slopes on Eddies, Tincan, Sunburst, Magnum, Cornbiscuit, Lipps, Johnson Pass, Girdwood Valley and a few on the easterly slopes on Seattle Ridge. Not to mention the Lynx creek glide extravaganza. Avoiding/limiting time under these features is prudent as they can release into an avalanche at any time and are completely unpredictable. The weather pattern change of the past couple days may or may not cause an increase in glide activity. 

Old glide release in Lynx Creek with additional cracks below. Much of the terrain in Lynx is threatened by glide cracks, 1-12-19. Photo: Wendy Wagner

Mountain Weather

Yesterday: Skies were overcast to obscured with rain/snow showers on and off throughout the day. Rain/snow line rose to around 1500' late in the day. Winds stayed strong 20-30 mph gusting as high as 60 mph. Temperatures were in the high 30Fs/low 40Fs at sea level and mid 20Fs at upper elevations. Overnight skies remained cloudy and winds eased off a bit around midnight. Temperatures remained in the high 30Fs to mid 20Fs depending on elevation. 

Today: Mostly cloudy with a chance of rain/snow showers. Rain/snow line is forecast to stay around 1500'. Temperatures will be in the high 30Fs/low 40Fs at sea level and mid to high 20Fs at 3000'. Winds will be easterly 10-20 mph with gusts into the 40s. Skies will clear overnight and winds will become calm. There is a little cooling as skies clear but temperatures rise again as clouds increase Tuesday.

Tomorrow: Partly sunny skies and calm winds in the morning becoming cloudy in the afternoon as the next storm system arrives. Stay tuned for storm details as the models are not in good agreement on this on yet! The pattern looks to remain active through the week. 

*Seattle Ridge weather station was heavily rimed and the anemometer (wind sensor) was destroyed. We are currently working to replace it.

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

  Temp Avg (F) Snow (in) Water (in) Snow Depth (in)
Center Ridge (1880') 34   1  0.1 54 
Summit Lake (1400')  32    1   0.1   22  
Alyeska Mid (1700')  33     1    0.3  42 


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

  Temp Avg (F) Wind Dir Wind Avg (mph) Wind Gust (mph)
Sunburst (3812') 25   NE  21 60 
Seattle Ridge(2400')


*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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