Seward & Southern Kenai Mtns

Archives
Issued
Fri, February 2nd, 2024 - 7:00AM
Expires
Sat, February 3rd, 2024 - 7:00AM
Forecaster
Mik Dalpes
Conditions Summary

Weekend Avalanche Outlook

Saturday, Feb. 3 – Sunday, Feb. 4

Bottom Line: A pattern shift is arriving to the Kenai bringing cloudy skies, warmer temperatures, more wind and a little bit of snow this weekend. With a few inches of new snow and variable winds forecast it will be possible for a machine or person to trigger an avalanche 6″-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 person. Glide avalanches are also a concern. We recommend avoiding travel underneath existing glide cracks because these avalanches release without warning and are large and destructive.

Special Announcements

This Thursday! Peninsula Powersports in Soldotna will be hosting forecasters Daniel Krueger and Mik Dalpes on Feb 8, 5-6pm. This will be an opportunity for us to interact with the community, discuss the weekend outlook for Summit and Seward and answer any questions you have.

Snowmachine access in the Kenai Mountains: Here is a map showing snowmachine access in Summit Pass. This is a great tool to better understand and travel in areas open to snowmachining. You can also download it to your phone to use in the field.

Outdoor Explorer – If you are interested in learning more about the Chugach Avalanche Center expansion and our forecast products, tune in to the Chugach Avalanche Center interview on the Alaska Public Media Outdoor Explorer website or on the Outdoor Explorer podcast.

Recent Avalanches

Recent Avalanches: Over the past week we observed a few glide avalanches on a southeast aspect at about 2,500′ on an un-named mountain located northwest of Lost Lake. There were new glide cracks forming in this area and one large glide crack on the south face of Cooper Mountain. There were a handful of small wind slabs on south aspects in the upper elevations between V-max and Mount Adair that looked like they released in the last few days during the north wind event.

Weather Recap: This has been a cold and windy week in Seward with north winds averaging in the teens and 20’s mph at the Seward airport every day since last Friday, January 26. After several weeks without much precipitation a storm came in on Sunday, January 28 bringing a total of about 10″ of new snow to the Grouse Creek weather station at Mile 12 on the Seward highway. The Cooper Lake weather station recorded 8″ of new snow from the storm so conditions were similar across the Seward zone.

Weather Forecast: It looks like a pattern change is heading towards the Kenai Mountains. The cold weather is forecast to move out and a series of small storms should move in. The north winds should decrease this evening and shift to the south. Clouds look to build Saturday morning along with south winds. On Saturday ridgetop winds in the Lost Lake area are forecast to be 20-30 mph from the south and temperatures look to be 5-10 degrees F. Precipitation should begin Saturday afternoon with a total accumulation of 3-4″ of new snow forecast by Sunday morning. Sunday looks to remain cloudy with precipitation tapering off by noon. Temperatures should warm to 15-20 degrees F and ridgetop winds are forecast to shift to the north at 10-15 mph.

Recent wind slab avalanche, glide avalanche and glide cracks on the Snug Harbor side of Lost Lake. 2.1.2024

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

After an entire week of north wind, a few inches of new snow and more wind in the forecast, wind slab is our primary concern this weekend. The winds are forecast to shift to the south on Saturday and back to the north on Sunday so these wind slabs could be found on any aspect around the compass and will be possible for a machine or person to trigger anywhere above treeline. Look for red flags such as snow blowing off ridgelines and across gully features, recent avalanches, and cracks shooting out from you. Wind slabs tend to look smooth and feel firm beneath you. The higher you go the more sensitive these slabs will be to trigger.

It could be that the wind slabs this weekend are possible to trigger days after they form. This is not normal behavior for a wind slab (wind slabs normally stabilize within 24-48 hours), but during the last two weeks of cold temperatures a layer of weak snow formed at the surface (up to 1′ of near surface facets). The 3-4″ of new snow forecast is not enough weight to make this layer fail, but the wind could very quickly create a slab that could tip the balance and cause an avalanche on this layer. We have some uncertainty about this because this weak layer has existed for at least a week with active wind loading and very few avalanches observed. This is a layer that we will be tracking and keep you posted on it’s behavior.

North winds blowing off ridges and across gully features in the Lost Lake area. Mount Ascension is the tallest peak in the photo. 2.1.2024

Snowpack on Snug Harbor side of Lost Lake showing the weak snow that could be a problem for a while once buried by a slab. 2.1.2024

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

The most recent glide activity we have observed is on the Snug Harbor side of Lost Lake. There are a handful of cracks on southern aspects and a few glide avalanches. We have limited information for this zone so there may be more glide activity than we are aware of. These avalanches are large and destructive because they fail at the ground without warning and take the entire seasons snowpack with them. We recommend watching for these cracks or “brown frowns” and avoid travel underneath them. If an alternate route is not possible, we recommend making a plan that includes watching the slope above, stopping in safe zones, and traveling quickly.

Recent glide and wind slab avalanches on the Snug Harbor side of Lost Lake. 2.1.2024

 

Weather
Fri, February 2nd, 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.