Avalanche Advisory

Turnagain Area Avalanche Advisory
Saturday, December 7th 2013 7:00 am by Kevin Wright
ARCHIVED ADVISORY - All advisories expire after 24 hours from the posting date/time.
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The Bottom Line

Unseasonably warm temperatures continue.  Avalanche danger is generally LOW simply because the snowpack is so shallow and for lack of a stronger cohesive slab.  Some unstable snow may be found in the form of low volume wet/loose sluffs.

 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.
Special Announcement

Alyeska is hosting their annual ski patrol auction tonight.  This is a fund-raiser for the Alyeska Patrol Avalanche Rescue Canines. Enjoy the "entertainment" from fellow ski patrollers and bid on an early morning ski with your favorite patroller and mountain operations team member. Auction from 8 to 10 pm followed by The Whipsaws.  See this link for more information.

Avalanche Problem 1

Conditions right now are odd for December in Alaska.  Total snow depth is only 15-30 inches, barely enough to justify putting boards on your feet.  Exposed rocks and trees continue to be the primary backcountry hazard.  

In some ways the snowpack is showing characteristics of typical Spring conditions with point release avalanches possible in the warmer and higher elevation areas.  Unlike springtime, the wet/loose activity is entraining weaker faceted snow and volume is severely limited by the shallow snowpack.  The freezing rain and temperature inversion started forming an ice crust a couple days ago, but in areas where temperatures have been above freezing for 24 hours, the crust has given way to soft and wetter snow.  

This combination is allowing for low volume wet/loose avalanches that can travel at slow speeds for a reasonable distance if the slope is steep enough.  Probably nothing to be afraid of, but something to watch for, and definitely atypical for December.  Point release activity like this has been seen around Summit Lake and in the Girdwood valley.

Avalanche Problem 2

We got a report this morning of significant avalanche debris in the Portage valley near a popular ice climb, fresh in the last couple days.  This is a great reminder that specific terrain features can harbor problems, especially when you are dealing with big, steep terrain and finicky weather in places like Portage.  

Avalanches like this are the main reason why we don't believe our avalanche advisory for Turnagain Pass is a good indicator for Portage, Whittier, or the heavily glaciated regions closer to Prince William Sound.

Mountain Weather

Rain was falling across our region on Thursday.  That trend dried out yesterday, but temperatures have been above freezing for most of the last 24 hours at all elevations.  

This morning we can see a temperature inversion again.  Sea level temperatures are cooling off and dipping below freezing.  Ridge top temperatures are still in the upper 30s, the rain/snow line is predicted at 5600ft today.  Wind is light from the northwest.

Looking into the future, a cooling trend is expected.  No major snowfall is in the forecast.  This means we can expect a stout melt/freeze crust to firm up this week.


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: Oct 05, 2019 )

Glacier District
Johnson Pass: ClosedClosed
Placer River: ClosedClosed
Skookum Drainage: ClosedClosed
Turnagain Pass: ClosedClosed
Twentymile: ClosedClosed
Seward District
Carter Lake: ClosedClosed
Lost Lake Trail: ClosedClosed
Primrose Trail: ClosedClosed
Resurrection Pass Trail: ClosedClosed. Will be open for the 2019/20 season pending adequate snow cover.
Snug Harbor: ClosedClosed
South Fork Snow River Corridor: ClosedClosed
Summit Lake: ClosedClosed

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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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