Avalanche Advisory

Turnagain Area Avalanche Advisory
Wednesday, January 23rd 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 at all elevations today. As strong winds and new snow/rain impact the region triggering a slab avalanche will be likely on slopes steeper than 30 degrees and natural avalanches are possible. Cautious route-finding and conservative decision-making are essential today. Avoid travel under cornices and glide cracks. Pay attention to changing conditions during this active storm cycle. Precipitation intensity and strong winds may bump the danger up to HIGH late in the day and natural avalanches could become likely.  

GIRDWOOD: Warming temperatures and rain on old snow = ROOF AVALANCHES. Pay attention to children and pets and where you park your car. 

PORTAGE and PLACER VALLEY:  Heavier rain and 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.

SUMMIT LAKE / JOHNSON PASS:  A poor snowpack structure exists in this area, which is very different than Turnagain Pass. New snow/rain and wind in this series of storms over the next few days may overload weak layers in the snowpack and larger avalanches may occur. Look for signs of instability and pay attention to changing conditions. 



 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.
3 Considerable Below Treeline / Below 1,000' Travel Advice: Dangerous avalanche conditions. Careful snowpack evaluation, cautious routefinding and conservative decision-making essential.
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Avalanche Problem 1

Storm Slabs

Almost Certain
Very Likely


Very Large


The first in a series of storms is over the region this morning bringing wind, snow and rain. Rain/snow line is forecast to be as high as 2500' today. Water amounts/snow totals are quite different across the advisory area this morning. Keep this in mind if you go in the mountains. Turnagain has only received 0.1" of water whereas Bear Valley (Portage side of the tunnel) is reporting 1.8" of water weight and Alyeska top station is at 0.94". For upper elevations that translates to the difference of approximately 1" of snow at Turnagain and almost 2' of snow in Portage. Sunburst weather station has been gusting as high as 70 mph and Max's gusted into the 60s. Winds will remain strong throughout the day. The advisory area is forecast to pick up close to another inch of water today. Paying attention to changing conditions is crucial. There will be a variety of avalanche concerns associated with the storm.  Expect upper elevation areas where new snow is falling on weak surface snow (surface hoar and near surface facets) to develop tender storm slabs and/or wind slabs. Slab depth will depend on snow amounts and wind deposition. Look for recent avalanches, shooting cracks and collapsing. Heavy wet snow and wind will also build cornices that could easily be triggered. 

Wet loose avalanches: In places where rain is falling on snow wet loose avalanches may initiate. Watch for roller balls and steer clear of runout zones if these start to move. Eventually if lower elevation crusts start to deteriorate these may gouge into softer snow below. 

  Rain total forecast for today to Friday morning. 

Suface hoar and near surface facets, 1-21-19. Photo: Collin Atkinson.

Additional Concern

Persistent Slabs

South of Turnagain - Johnson Pass/Summit Lake zone: poor snowpack structure exists in these areas.  Multiple mid-pack weak layers of facets and buried surface hoar have been found as well as a facet/crust combination in the bottom of the snowpack. No recent avalanche activity and calm weather has allowed the pack to slowly adjust. However, as these weak layers get loaded over the next few days we may see avalanches stepping down to the older layers. This zone is not expected to get as much precipitation but incremental loading and strong winds may be enough to tip the balance. Look for signs of instability and choose terrain carefully. 

Mountain Weather

Yesterday: Skies were cloudy and there was very light afternoon snow/rain showers. Temperatures were in the mid 20Fs to low 30Fs.  Northeasterly winds were 15-25 mph and started gusting into the 40s mid-day. Overnight temperatures rose into the high 20Fs and mid to high 30Fs. Winds increased gusting to 70 on Sunburst. Precipitation picked up overnight. 

Today: Cloudy skies with snow and rain likely throughout the day. 0.7" of rain is forecast with potential for higher amounts closer to the coast. Rain/snow line around 2500'. Temperatures ranging from the 40Fs to 20Fs depending on elevation. Winds will be easterly 20-30 mph gusting into the 60s. Tonight another front is expected to move in. Click HERE for the Special Weather Statement from the National Weather Service.

Tomorrow: Continued precipitation and strong winds. Temperatures are forecast to keep increasing with the warmest temperatures on Friday and yet another front that is forecast to be the strongest of 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  0.1  50 
Summit Lake (1400')  31    0   20 
Alyeska Mid (1700') 33  0.5  39 


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

  Temp Avg (F) Wind Dir Wind Avg (mph) Wind Gust (mph)
Sunburst (3812') 24   NE  22 70 
Seattle Ridge(2400') 29  *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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