Seward & Southern Kenai Mtns

Archives
Issued
Fri, January 12th, 2024 - 7:00AM
Expires
Sat, January 13th, 2024 - 7:00AM
Forecaster
Mik Dalpes
Conditions Summary

Weekend Avalanche Outlook

Saturday, Jan. 13 – Sunday, Jan. 14

Bottom Line: The Martin Luther King Jr. Day weekend is arriving with another storm bringing mostly wind and a little bit of snow. With 2-6” of new snow and southeast winds forecast from Friday through Sunday morning it will be likely for a person to trigger an avalanche up to 1-2’ deep in windblown snow. These avalanches will be more likely and more sensitive at higher elevations and could be large enough to bury a machine or person. We recommend avoiding steep slopes for at least 24 hours after the winds calm.

Special Announcements

Girdwood Forecaster Chat – Friday, Jan 19th! Mark your calendars for Andrew Schauer’s discussion on the different shades of MODERATE danger at the Girdwood Brewing Co. (6:30pm Jan 19). More details HERE.

Outdoor Explorer – Thursday, Jan 25th. If you are interested in learning more about the Chugach Avalanche Center expansion and our forecast products, tune in to “Outdoor Explorer” on KSKA 91.1 on January 25 at 10AM and 8PM. It will be streamable after it airs on the Alaska Public Media Outdoor Explorer website or as an Outdoor Explorer podcast.

Recent Avalanches

Recent Avalanches: There was a large avalanche observed on the south face of Mt. Adair on Wednesday, January 10. This avalanche was too far away for a photo, but it appeared to break at the ridgeline and run to the valley floor. We believe this was likely a wind slab from the wind event on Tuesday, January 9. There was also a glide avalanche observed on the south face of Mt. Eva Wednesday, January 10. Otherwise, there were no other avalanches seen or reported over the past week.

Weather Recap: A large storm impacted the Kenai Mountains last Sunday, January 7th, bringing at least a foot of new snow to the alpine in the Seward area. Below 1,200’ there was a mix of rain and snow. This was followed by a north wind event on Tuesday, January 9th bringing sustained winds of 20 mph gusting to 40 mph at the Seward airport. We don’t currently have a ridgetop weather station in the Seward area, but we expect the ridgetop winds were higher.

Weather Forecast: A couple of storm fronts will move through the Seward area this weekend. Ridgetop winds are currently blowing from the south around 25 mph gusting to 30 mph. Precipitation should begin Friday evening with some light showers persisting through the day on Saturday bringing 2-6” of new snow above 700’ by Saturday evening. Temperatures in Seward are hovering around 32 degrees F and the rain line may fluctuate between sea level and 700’ throughout the weekend. Ridgetop winds on Saturday look to be in the teens gusting to 30 mph from the southeast. Sunday’s weather looks calm with little to no precipitation, temperatures should be 25-35 degrees F depending on elevation, and the winds light and variable.

Glide avalanche on the south side of Mt. Eva. 01.10.24

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 Avalanche.org

With southeast winds forecast on Friday and Saturday accompanied by a few inches of new snow, wind slab avalanches will be our primary concern this weekend. Expect to see fresh wind slabs up to 1-2’ deep in areas that have been recently loaded. How easy these slabs will be to trigger will depend on how freshly they have formed and how well they are bonding to the snow beneath them. To assess the conditions, look for recent avalanches and snow blowing off ridgelines and across gully features. Wind affected snow will feel firm beneath your machine or feet. Some easy tests you can do include riding over or jumping on a small test slope that has been recently loaded or digging a hand pit. A shooting crack, like the small one I found on Wednesday (photo below), can indicate unstable conditions. Wind slabs tend to become less reactive 24-48 hours after the wind dies down, but with winds expected to remain elevated through Sunday morning this problem could persist throughout the day on Sunday. Softer snow can be found in sheltered areas of lower elevations if you want to avoid this problem.

Persistent Slab:  There is a small chance that a person or a natural wind slab avalanche could trigger a larger avalanche on a weak layer buried deeper in the snowpack in the Carter Lake area, on the north end of the Seward zone. There is potential that this area is harboring some of the persistent weak layers that have been found in the Summit and Turnagain zones, but we have quite a bit of uncertainty with a lack of information.

A small shooting crack as I jumped on a small test slope. I couldn’t make the slope slide. 01.10.24

Additional Concern
  • Glide Avalanches
    Glide Avalanches
Glide Avalanches
Glide Avalanches are the release of the entire snow cover as a result of gliding over the ground. Glide avalanches can be composed of wet, moist, or almost entirely dry snow. They typically occur in very specific paths, where the slope is steep enough and the ground surface is relatively smooth. They are often proceeded by full depth cracks (glide cracks), though the time between the appearance of a crack and an avalanche can vary between seconds and months. Glide avalanches are unlikely to be triggered by a person, are nearly impossible to forecast, and thus pose a hazard that is extremely difficult to manage.
More info at Avalanche.org

On Wednesday, January 10th I observed a glide avalanche on the south face of Mt. Eva that likely occurred on January 9th. I also saw some glide cracks opening up towards the bottom of the south facing couloirs on Mt. Eva. There was a report of some glide cracks on the south face of Tiehacker Mountain. Last week there were two glide avalanches reported on the south side of Wrong Mountain in the Carter Lake area. We were hoping the glide problem that the northern zones are having was going to stay up north, but it seems Seward did not want to be left out. Glide avalanches are completely unpredictable, fail at the ground, are not triggered by humans, and are typically preceded by a “brown frown” or visible crack but not always. The only way to completely avoid this dangerous problem is to stay out from under these cracks. If there is no alternate route, we recommend limiting your time underneath glide cracks and exposing only one person at a time.

Glide cracks opening on the south facing couloirs of Mt. Eva. 01.10.24

Weather
Fri, January 12th, 2024

Weather Forecast Links:

NWS Point Forecast: Point forecast near Lost Lake.

NWS Avalanche Weather Guidance (AVG) forecast page: Zoom into the Anchorage bowl for special detailed winter forecast.

Windy.com Spot Forecast: Spot forecast for Lost Lake. (tip: scroll through models using the links at the bottom of the page, and change locations by clicking on the map).

Weather Stations

Grouse Creek Divide Snotel

Lost Lake Weather Station

Observations
Recent Observations for Seward & Southern Kenai Mtns
Date Region Location
04/16/24 Seward Observation: Lost Lake
04/10/24 Seward Observation: Lost Lake
04/03/24 Seward Observation: Snug Harbor
03/31/24 Seward Avalanche: Lost Lake
03/27/24 Seward Avalanche: Tiehacker Mountain
03/14/24 Seward Observation: Lost Lake via Snug Harbor
03/06/24 Seward Observation: Carter Lake
03/03/24 Seward Observation: Victor Creek, 1k – 1.6k elevation
02/29/24 Seward Observation: Carter Lake
02/26/24 Seward Avalanche: Mt Marathon
Riding Areas

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