Chugach State Park

Fri, February 2nd, 2024 - 7:00AM
Sat, February 3rd, 2024 - 7:00AM
Mary Gianotti
Conditions Summary

Weekend Avalanche Outlook

Saturday, February 3rd  – Sunday, February 4th

*UPDATE: 1pm Monday, February 5th: Two significant human-triggered avalanches occurred in the Falls Creek area off the Seward Highway on February 4th.  The avalanches were thought to have failed on the layer of facets below the wind crust beneath the last two most recent storm events. A similar problem likely exists across most of the Front Range right now.

Bottom Line: We are concerned about a person triggering a wind slab avalanche this weekend. A foot of light-low density snow from early this week was picked up by the wind event that hit the range Thursday with sustained 20-35 mph winds from the northwest. Another period of 10-30 mph winds from the southeast is forecast to hit the Front Range this Saturday night tapering off Sunday afternoon. Wind slabs can be avoided by sticking to sheltered or wind-scoured areas. To identify areas with wind slabs, look for active wind transport and feel for firmer, hollow snow on the surface.

Wind-sculpted snow on the northwest aspect of Flattop. Photo: Joe Kurtak 1.31.24

Special Announcements

Upcoming Events:

Anchorage: Tomorrow, Saturday, Feb 3, Avalanche Rescue Skills Workshop. This event was postponed due to extremely cold temperatures (-18F on Jan 27!). Come anytime between 10:30am to 3:30pm to practice with your avalanche rescue gear, at Glen Alps Parking Lot.

Moose Pass: Winter Rendezvous – Trail Lake Lodge – Jan 27, stop by between 10-1pm to chat with the new forecaster Daniel Krueger, ask your questions, and learn more about avalanche information on the Kenai.

SnowBall:  Mark your calendars for Valentine’s Day, Feb 14 (7-11 pm @ 49th St Brewing). Details and tickets here. The evening promises costumes, finger food, a rocking band, a silent auction, and of course plenty of great company. Join us in supporting Chugach Avy as well as our friends at the Alaska Avalanche School.

Outdoor Explorer Interview: Our interview with Outdoor Explorer is live. Check out the interview here.

Recent Avalanches

Recent Avalanches:  Over the past week, we have had five observations in the Chugach State Park, with one observation mentioning several small natural and skier-triggered dry loose avalanches. Thank you to everyone who has submitted observations! We always appreciate any information the public has to share.

Natural dry loose avalanches on the south aspect of Little O’Malley. Photo: Joe Kurtak 1.31.24

Skier triggered dry loose avalanches on the south aspect of Little O’Malley. Photo: Joe Kurtak. 1.31.24

Weather Recap: In the past week, the Front Range has received roughly a foot of dry, low-density snow. There was a significant wind event that hit the Front Range Thursday with sustained 20-30 mph winds from the northwest. Temperatures have been chilly, ranging from negative teens to highs of mid-twenties and an average of around 0 F.  At the base of the South Fork of Eagle River Valley, temperatures dipped as low as -38 F. So cold; it almost feels like we are in Fairbanks!

Snow depth continues to vary in the region. Despite the new snow, after the wind event on Thursday, conditions range from bare ground to over nine feet of snow with an average of about four feet.

Weather Forecast: Friday and Saturday are looking like the clear skies and cold temperature trend will continue. Temperatures are forecasted for as low as -17 F on Friday evening and highs in the single digits on Saturday. Starting Saturday afternoon, cloud coverage is expected to come in. Up to 5 inches of snow mixed with 10-30 mph winds from the southeast will start Saturday afternoon and taper off Sunday afternoon. Temperatures Saturday afternoon are expected to rise from the single digits to the low twenties by Sunday evening.

Frostbite or other cold injuries are still a possibility this weekend. Your extremities- hands, feet, ears, or tip of your nose are most vulnerable to cold weather injuries. Try to keep those areas covered and watch out for the first signs of frostbite (numbness, clumsiness, and cold skin).

Avalanche Problem 1
  • Wind Slabs
    Wind Slabs
Wind Slabs
Wind Slab avalanches are the release of a cohesive layer of snow (a slab) formed by the wind. Wind typically transports snow from the upwind sides of terrain features and deposits snow on the downwind side. Wind slabs are often smooth and rounded and sometimes sound hollow, and can range from soft to hard. Wind slabs that form over a persistent weak layer (surface hoar, depth hoar, or near-surface facets) may be termed Persistent Slabs or may develop into Persistent Slabs.
More info at

Wind Slabs: The foot of light low-density snow that came in earlier this week was easy for the wind to pick up and move around on Thursday. The past wind event came in from the northwest and the wind event Saturday is forecast to come from the southeast. Strong winds with light snow can create wind slabs in more unusual spots from cross-loading and loading mid-slope.

As mentioned in the bottom line, to identify areas with wind slabs, look for active wind transport and feel for firmer, hollow snow on the surface. Carefully evaluate cross-loaded gullies, wind-loaded ridges, and rollover features, and be on the lookout for shooting cracks. Keep in mind that stiffer wind slabs often fail once you are farther out onto the slope and can surprise you. Using small test slopes can be a good way to check whether wind slabs are reactive to human triggers in the area you are traveling.

Dry Loose Avalanches: If you find yourself in steep, wind-sheltered terrain with soft snow, small, dry, loose avalanches are possible.  Use sluff management techniques when appropriate.

Freshly wind-sculpted snow at the ridge on Little O’Malley. Photo: Michael Kerst 1.31.24

Avalanche Problem 2
  • Persistent Slabs
    Persistent Slabs
Persistent Slabs
Persistent Slab avalanches are the release of a cohesive layer of snow (a slab) in the middle to upper snowpack, when the bond to an underlying persistent weak layer breaks. Persistent layers include: surface hoar, depth hoar, near-surface facets, or faceted snow. Persistent weak layers can continue to produce avalanches for days, weeks or even months, making them especially dangerous and tricky. As additional snow and wind events build a thicker slab on top of the persistent weak layer, this avalanche problem may develop into a Deep Persistent Slab.
More info at

Persistent Slabs: For the past two weeks we were able to get some reactive stability test results on the near-surface facet layer roughly 13” down from the snow surface. With the added stress on the snowpack from the winds, this layer could become easier to trigger. Additionally, there is a persistent weak layer we are still monitoring at the base of the snowpack at elevations over 2,500’. This layer of depth hoar and basal facets (weak, sugary snow) is the type of layer that has the lingering potential to cause an avalanche if you happen to find the trigger point in a thinner spot in the snowpack.

ECTP25 on a near-surface facet layer buried roughly 13” down from the snow surface. Photo: 1.31.24

Another photo from ECT test. Photo: 1.31.24

Fri, February 2nd, 2024

Weather Forecasts:

Weather Stations

Recent Observations for Chugach State Park
Date Region Location
05/29/24 Chugach State Park Avalanche: Harp mtn west aspect
05/07/24 Chugach State Park Observation: Mt. Eklutna
04/27/24 Chugach State Park Avalanche: Chugach Front Range Powerline Valley
04/16/24 Chugach State Park Observation: South Fork of Eagle River
04/13/24 Chugach State Park Avalanche: South Fork Hiland Road
04/10/24 Chugach State Park Observation: Chugach Front Range Flattop
04/09/24 Chugach State Park Observation: South Fork of Eagle River
04/08/24 Chugach State Park Avalanche: Arctic Valley/ Gordon Lyon
04/06/24 Chugach State Park Observation: Eagle River South Fork
04/06/24 Chugach State Park Avalanche: False Peak

This is a general backcountry conditions summary. This advisory does not apply to highways, railroads or operating ski areas.