Avalanche Advisory

Turnagain Area Avalanche Advisory
Thursday, April 25th 2019 7:00 am by Heather Thamm
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 above 2500' due to active wind loading and new snow. Human triggered wind slabs 1-2' may be tender on leeward slopes 35 degrees and steeper. Triggering a slab 2-3' in older snow on Northerly aspects above 2500' is possible and could propagate across an entire slope. If the sun makes an appearance natural wet-loose avalanches on South aspects are possible in the afternoon. Careful snowpack evaluation and conservative terrain choices are essential. As always, give cornices a wide berth and limit travel under glide cracks.

Between 1000' and 2500' the avalanche danger is MODERATE where triggering dry loose snow is likely on steep features and wet loose avalanches will be possible in the afternoon if the sun come out.

PORTAGE VALLEY: Cornice fall and/or avalanches from above have the potential to send debris to valley bottoms. Traveling along summer hiking trails, such as the Byron Glacier Trail with steep slopes overhead is not recommended on rainy/snowy days or on sunny afternoons. Portage Valley received over 5’ of snow at upper elevations and cornices are looming large.

WHITTIER: Between 4-5 feet of new snow has fallen at the upper elevations in the Whittier Glacier region. Heads up as there is limited snowpack information for this area. Large human triggered slab avalanches are possible and extra caution is advised.

LOST LAKE / SEWARD: There is also limited snowpack information for this region as well. Ease into steeper terrain and look for signs of instability.

No avalanche forecast will be issued tomorrow. Clear and sunny skies are in the forecast tomorrow and into the weekend. Natural and human triggered wet avalanches are possible in the afternoon with warming from the sun. Evaluate surface conditions as you travel and be ready to avoid all South aspects later in the day. This includes traveling under the runout of steep South facing terrain.

 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.
2 Moderate Treeline / 1,000'-2,500' Travel Advice: Heightened avalanche conditions on specific terrain features. Evaluate snow and terrain carefully; identify features of concern.
0 NO RATING Below Treeline / Below 1,000'
Special Announcement

Advisories: Today is CNFAIC’s last avalanche advisory for the season. We will post our Springtime tips on Saturday morning. Keep in mind winter conditions still exist in the mountains. If you see any avalanche activity please send us an observation and we’ll continue to update social media with any pertinent observations in the coming weeks. A big thanks to all of our observers and the local avalanche professionals that share information with the CNFAIC.

Avalanche Problem 1

Wind Slabs

Almost Certain
Very Likely


Very Large


Winter is not over in the mountains surrounding Southcentral Alaska! Extra caution is advised at Turnagain Pass. A storm that favored Turnagain Pass overnight brought  9” of new snow. Ridgetop weather stations have reported winds in 15-45mph range with gusts in the 50-60’s mph. In areas that did not see new snow yesterday, 1-2’ of dry low-density snow was available for transport. Expect wind slabs to be 1-2’ in size on leeward terrain features. Shooting cracks and blowing snow today will be an obvious clue that wind slabs are tender. 

DRY LOOSE: In areas protected from wind dry-loose surface snow may be easy to initiate and fast moving in steep terrain. Also keep in mind there may be a deeper more dangerous slab lurking under loose dry snow on Northern aspects in alpine.

WET LOOSE: Cold temperatures have caused light dry snow to fall in the mid and upper elevations over the last few days. When the sun appears this is the perfect type of snow for wet loose avalanches. There is potential for late afternoon sun. Monitor surface conditions as you travel and avoid South facing aspects if the surface become wet and sticky.

CORNICES: There are lots of large cornices on ridge tops. These features can heat up with daily warming making them easier to trigger. Give them lots of space.

FRIDAY: Tomorrow looks like the first clear sunny day following the storm. If winds are calm tomorrow and air temperatures increase into the 40Fs, natural wet loose avalanches are possible on South facings slopes.

Recent storm slab on CFR on Tincan yesterday seen just before winds started to increase. 


Dry loose sluffs seen on Lipps North facing terrain yesterday prior to winds increasing in the afternoon.


Avalanche Problem 2

Persistent Slabs

Almost Certain
Very Likely


Very Large


Over the last week 3’ of snow (3.0”SWE) has fallen incrementally in the Alpine of Turnagain Pass and Girdwood. On shaded (NE-N-NW) aspects above 2500’, weak snow may be lurking 2-3’ below the surface. Surface hoar was observed on shaded aspects prior to the last week of stormy weather and facets and buried surface hoar may still be lurking another foot below that layer. The reactivity of this weak snow is unknown, but keep in mind that a 2-3’ thick could have high consequences. Whumpfing and shooting cracks may not be present, and a person or machine may well onto a slope before triggering. Today with active wind loading expected to continue avoiding steep Northerly aspects in the alpine is a conservative choice. Looking into the weekend as snowpack starts to adjust, evaluate terrain for consequences and practice safe travel protocols - expose one person a time, watch partners and have an escape route planned.

* New snow totals vary across our region. Summit Lake has seen around 15” of new snow over the last week. The mountains surrounding Portage Valley and Whittier have seen up to 5’of new snow.

Additional Concern

Glide Avalanches

Several new glide avalanche were observed in Turnagain Pass yesterday - one on a SE aspect of Seattle Ridge and the other on a SW aspect of Eddies. Glide cracks are continuing to creep open and still exist in many popular areas of Turnagain Pass. As always identify cracks and avoid traveling under their runout. They are unpredictable and can avalanche at any time.

Mountain Weather

Yesterday: Skies were broken in the morning becoming obscure by early afternoon. Ridgetop winds were 10-45mph from the East and strongest overnight. Sunburst weather station recorded the strongest winds 30-40mph with gusts in the 50-60s mph. Turnagain Pass received 9" of new snow in the last 24 hours. Temperatures were in the low to mid 20Fs in the Alpine. Near sea level temps were 30-40F. Rain/snow line was around between ~400'. 

Today: Skies will be overcast with a possibility of broken skies in the afternoon. Scattered snow showers should diminish by late morning. Easterly ridgetop winds 15-25mph will start to decrease in the afternoon to 5-15mph and shift to a NW direction. Temperatures at sea level will be in the low-30Fs to mid-40Fs. Temperatures in the upper elevations will be in the 20Fs with a high near 30F. Overnight temperatures are expected to drop below freezing at all elevations.

Tomorrow: Clear and Sunny skies are in the forecast for Friday and through the weekend. No precipitation is expected. Northwest ridgetop winds are expected to be light, 5-10mph. Daytime temperatures at sea level could reach the upper 40Fs to low 50Fs. Daytime temps in the alpine may reach the mid to upper-30Fs.  Freezing temperatures are expected overnight. 

*Be aware that Seattle Ridge weather station may be under-reporting average wind speeds and gusts. 

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

  Temp Avg (F) Snow (in) Water (in) Snow Depth (in)
Center Ridge (1880') 30  0.7  81 
Summit Lake (1400') 33  19 
Alyeska Mid (1700') 30  trace   0.02 67 


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

  Temp Avg (F) Wind Dir Wind Avg (mph) Wind Gust (mph)
Sunburst (3812') 18  ENE  25  64 
Seattle Ridge(2400') 26  ESE  *8  *21 

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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