Avalanche Advisory

Turnagain Area Avalanche Advisory
Monday, March 4th 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

A generally LOW avalanche danger remains for Turnagain, Girdwood and Portage areas. Although triggering a slab avalanche is unlikely, watch for sluffs on steep shaded slopes. Avoid travel under glide cracks and give cornices a wide berth.

SUMMIT LAKE / SILVERTIP:  More caution is advised south of Turnagain Pass as the snowpack is thin and harbors old weak layers. 

 Show the Complete North American Avalanche Danger Scale
1 Low Alpine / Above 2,500' Travel Advice: Generally safe avalanche conditions. Watch for unstable snow on isolated terrain features.
1 Low Treeline / 1,000'-2,500' Travel Advice: Generally safe avalanche conditions. Watch for unstable snow on isolated terrain features.
1 Low Below Treeline / Below 1,000' Travel Advice: Generally safe avalanche conditions. Watch for unstable snow on isolated terrain features.
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Avalanche Problem 1

Today will be another day of Normal Caution (LOW danger). Clearing skies, temperatures generally in the 20Fs and calm winds should not have much impact on avalanche hazard.  With afternoon sunshine and as valley temperatures rise above freezing, low elevation solar aspects may see a little surface heating. 

"Don't mess with the brown frown!" i.eavoid travel under glide cracks. Late last week and into the weekend we saw several glide cracks release into avalanches in the Girdwood Valley and at Turnagain Pass. Although many of these slides are on the smaller side and in areas not commonly traveled, one released Friday, March 1st on Seattle Ridge. As far as the older glide cracks we've been monitoring in popular areas such as Magnum, Lipps, Cornbiscuit, these do not appear to be moving as quickly. PSA: Help us keep track of these cracks and send us a photo! 

Things to keep in mind if you are headed into the backcountry:

  • Glide avalanches - These types of avalanches are highly unpredictable and not associated with human triggers. It's always best to watch for and limit exposure under glide cracks.
  • Dry-loose sluffs - Watch your sluff on steep shaded slopes.
  • Cornice falls - As always, give cornices a wide berth. 
  • An outlier slab avalanche - Although it is unlikely a person could trigger a slab avalanche, the mountains can harbor surprises, especially in thin snowpack areas. Considering the consequences before entering into high consequence terrain and maintaining good travel protocol are good habits to keep on LOW danger days.

Surface conditions? A stout sun crust has been found on southerly facing slopes. Otherwise, 4-8" or so of soft re-crystalized (near surface faceted snow) sits over a firmer base on shaded aspects and some sastrugi, old wind crust and/or rime crust can be found along ridgelines. In anticipation of the next storm, we are closely mapping the surface conditions as well as watching for new surface hoar growth. 

Sun crusts on Sunburst, 3-3-19. Photo: Allen Dahl

Closer view of the Seattle Ridge glide avalanche that occurred on March 1st and glide cracks to the right, 3-3-19. Photo: Allen Dahl


Additional Concern

Persistent Slabs

South of Turnagain - Summit Lake and Silvertip zones:  For anyone traveling in this area note that a shallow snowpack with a generally poor structure exists. A variety of old weak layers (facets and buried surface hoar) sit in the mid and base of the snowpack. It is uncertain as to how reactive these layers are at this point and if they could produce a slab avalanche. Assessing the slab as well as the weak layer is important. The most suspect place to trigger an avalanche is steep terrain with old, hard wind slabs sitting on weak snow. 

Mountain Weather

Yesterday: Broken sky cover with a few flurries and some patches of sunshine. Temperatures ranged from the teens and 20Fs to the low 30Fs depending on elevation. Winds were very light and westerly. Skies were cloudy overnight with slightly cooler temperatures and light winds.  

Today: Mostly cloudy skies becoming partly sunny by the afternoon. Temperatures in the 20Fs at upper elevations and the low 30Fs near sea level with calm winds. Skies will become cloudy again overnight and winds will be light with temperatures in the 20Fs.

Tomorrow: Mostly cloudy skies with a chance of snow showers, temperatures in the 20Fs and light easterly winds. We are still anticipating an overall pattern change and a storm this weekend. Stay tuned for details! 

MORE STATE OF THE SNOWPACK:  March 1st Snow Depth chart for Turnagain Pass. Time to do the Low-pressure snow dance... Remember that's counter clockwise!

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

  Temp Avg (F) Snow (in) Water (in) Snow Depth (in)
Center Ridge (1880')  26 58 
Summit Lake (1400')  23  0    28  
Alyeska Mid (1700')  26  0    0    53  


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

  Temp Avg (F) Wind Dir Wind Avg (mph) Wind Gust (mph)
Sunburst (3812')  17  W  1
Seattle Ridge(2400')  24  W   1 

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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