Chugach State Park

Fri, March 15th, 2024 - 7:00AM
Sat, March 16th, 2024 - 7:00AM
Mary Gianotti
Conditions Summary

Weekend Avalanche Outlook

Saturday, March 16th – Sunday, March 17th

Bottom Line: Fresh wind slabs are going to be the most likely way to trigger an avalanche this weekend.  We have between 1-5″ of previous snow available for transport at the moment. Additionally, 1-4″ of new snow is forecast to come this weekend in conjunction with sustained 20-25 mph winds with gusts up to 40 mph. The size and likelihood of triggering an avalanche will depend on how much new snow comes in. Be on the lookout for shooting cracks, and punchy hollow snow, and make sure to carefully evaluate steep wind-loaded terrain this weekend.

Special Announcements

Turnagain Pass Avalanche Awareness Day – Saturday, March 23!
Swing by the Turnagain motorized parking lot between noon and 4pm to grab a hotdog, practice your beacons skills, chat with the forecast team, and possibly test out a demo snowmachine provided by local dealers.

Recent Avalanches

Recent Avalanches: Over the past week, we have had five observations in the Chugach State Park with one observation documenting small point release dry loose slides on all aspects.  We rely heavily on public observations. If anyone gets out this weekend, especially somewhere in a less traveled zone, like the North Fork of Ship Creek from this week, let us know what you are seeing out there. We always appreciate any information you all have to share.  Thank you!

Weather Recap: This week received less wind than what the typical winter weather trends have been for the Front Range this season. There was one wind event Tuesday to Thursday with sustained 15-25 mph winds from the north/northeast with gusts up to 40 mph.  The rest of the week had mostly light variable winds. As mentioned in the bottom line, the Front Range received 1″-5″ of new snow this week, a lot of which is still available for wind transport. Temperatures ranged from 6F to 45F with an average of around 20F.

The 1-5″ of new snow at the beginning of the week improved snow surface riding conditions, but underneath the new snow is still a predominately breakable wind layer.  Snow depth remains variable across the range from bare ground to up to 10′ of snow depth.  Moving forward, it is the time of year to start tracking surface conditions on southerly slopes as warm temperatures and solar radiation may start to form melt-freeze crusts.

Weather Forecast: This weekend is forecast to have mostly overcast skies. Temperatures are expected to range from mid-teens to high-twenties F. On Friday, winds are forecast to be light and variable with no new snow. However, starting on Saturday mid-morning, the winds are expected to pick up to sustained 15-25 mph winds with gusts up to 40 mph from the SE. As mentioned in the bottom line, 1-4″ of new snow is forecast to come in at the same time as the wind event. The wind and new snow event is expected to taper off by Monday morning.

Southern Aspect of O’Malley Ridge. Photo: Joe Kurtak 3.13.24

View of Ship Creek from Arctic Valley weather station. Photo: 3.14.24

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:   Wind slab avalanches are the main concern going into the weekend.  As mentioned in the bottom line, we still have 1-5″ of snow available for transport that can be picked up by the wind event this weekend in addition to the 1-4″ of forecast new snow coming in. The new wind slabs are expected to be small and will depend heavily on how much new snow comes in.  To identify areas with wind slabs, look for hollow snow on the surface. Carefully evaluate cross-loaded gullies, wind-loading off of ridges, and rollover features, and be on the lookout for shooting cracks. 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.

Wind-scoured Hunter Pass. Photo: 3.14.24

Additional Concern
  • 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: On our field day on Thursday we noticed that some of the larger open-faced bowls at higher elevations on the eastern side of the South Fork of Eagle River appear to have more pronounced snowpack layering than what is seen in something like a Front Range wind-affected snow gully (Peak 3 for example). We were able to get some reactive snow test results (ECTP23) on the near-surface facet layer ~13″ down from the snow surface underneath a hard slab. Because the hard slab is so dense and able to disburse a human’s weight well, the likelihood of triggering that near surface facet layer below the slab is low. That being said, if you hit that layer in just the right spot at a thinner point in the slab, you have the potential to trigger an unmanageable avalanche. Furthermore, keep in mind that a stiffer hard slab like that can fail once you are farther out onto the slope or beneath a slope and can surprise you. Keep this on your radar when you are out this weekend.

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.