Summit & Central Kenai Mtns

Archives
Issued
Sat, February 3rd, 2024 - 7:00AM
Expires
Sun, February 4th, 2024 - 7:00AM
Forecaster
Daniel Krueger
Conditions Summary

Weekend Avalanche Outlook

Saturday, Feb. 3 – Sunday, Feb. 4

Bottom Line: Strong winds and light snow from earlier this week have buried a weak layer of snow that may remain reactive this weekend, making it possible to trigger an avalanche up to 1 to 2′ deep. An approaching storm Saturday evening into Sunday morning is expected to bring another 2 to 5″ of new snow and strong east winds that will increase the likelihood of triggering an avalanche. Additionally, glide avalanches remain a concern and cracks that have not released are much harder to see due to the new snow. It is recommended to avoid steep, wind loaded terrain until the snow has had time to settle.

 

Special Announcements

COMING SOON! Peninsula Powersports in Soldotna will be hosting us on Feb 8, 5-6pm. Come by and meet the new forecasters, talk about the state of the snowpack in Summit and Seward, and hear about our “Avalanche Weekend Outlook,” a new forecasting tool we started publishing this year for Summit and Seward!

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.

Recent Avalanches

Recent Avalanches: Last week widespread loose dry avalanches released naturally sliding on the old snow surface. A wind slab avalanche was observed on Tributary Mtn on Jan. 30. No glide avalanches were reported but new glide cracks opened on Summit Mtn.

Weather Recap: Sunday through Monday a storm brought 8″ of light snow to Summit accompanied by ridgetop winds from the south with 30 mph gusts. For the rest of the week, clouds were replaced with clear skies, and cold temperatures averaging 6 to -27 F! On Wednesday and Thursday ridgetops winds from the northwest averaged 10mph with 40 mph gusts. Friday brought clear skies and moderate winds (10 to 15 mph).

Weather Forecast: A storm is forecast to bring up to 5″ of snow to Summit from Saturday evening into Sunday morning. Saturday morning should be cloudy with snow starting to fall around noon accompanied by east winds (0 to 10 mph) picking up in the afternoon with 15 mph gusts and temperatures ranging from -10 to 5 F. Overnight looks to have a few inches of snow followed by strong east winds gusting 20 to 30+ mph. On Sunday morning winds are expected to decrease (5 to 10 mph) coming out of the northwest with light flurries and clouds breaking up in the afternoon. Temperatures hopefully will be warmer (10 to 15 F).

A wind slab avalanche on the east face of Tributary Mtn likely releasing Jan. 29. Photo 1.30.2024

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

The approaching storm on Saturday is forecast to bring up to 5″ of new snow and strong east winds gusting 20 to 30+ mph later in the day through Sunday morning. In addition to the new snow we are expecting this weekend, we also received 8″ of snow earlier this week accompanied by strong northwest winds. These new wind slabs as well as the older wind slabs that formed earlier in the week will be sitting on a layer of weak faceted snow, making them more reactive and easier to trigger a little longer than a typical wind slab. Expect these winds to transport old and new snow into touchy wind slabs 1 to 2′ deep. Wind slabs can be found on the leeward side of wind affected features such as below ridgelines, convex rollovers, and in cross loaded gullies. Red flags such as natural avalanches, blowing snow, and shooting cracks indicate that you can trigger an avalanche. The safest option is to avoid steep wind loaded slopes and ride softer snow at lower elevations not affected by the wind until the snowpack has had time to settle.

Persistent Slabs: We are also keeping our eye on buried weak layers deeper in the snowpack. This includes faceted snow associated with the thanksgiving crust and facets at the ground in isolated areas at higher elevations. Although there have been no known avalanches failing on these layers, it is possible that in the future a slab from a larger storm could cause these layers to fail. For now, these layers are not likely to avalanche, but if you want to avoid this problem, enjoy lower angle terrain.

Northwest winds transporting snow on Spirit Walker. Photo 2.1.2024

Rippled texture from wind transporting snow into wind slabs on Butch Mtn. Photo 1.30.2024

 

Avalanche Problem 2
  • 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

Glide cracks continued to open last week in Summit. To complicate the issue these cracks are now covered by new snow, making it more difficult see where they are and avoid traveling under them. When making a travel plan if you are unsure where these now hidden glide cracks are, look back at past observation photos to indicate where some of these are located. As always avoid being under these glide cracks because they can be large and release spontaneously. If you do not have an alternate route, limit time under them, expose one person at a time, and move efficiently under them.

Glide avalanche covered in snow on the east face of Tributary Peak. Photo 1.30.2024

Weather
Sat, February 3rd, 2024
Weather Forecasts

NWS Point Forecast: Point forecast for the Summit Lake area.

NWS Avalanche Weather Guidance (AVG) forecast page: Mountain weather forecasts for the region. Zoom in on the map to find point forecasts for Summit.

Windy.com Spot Forecast: Spot forecast for Summit (tip: compare models using the links at the bottom of the page).

 

Weather Stations

Summit Creek Snotel

AK DOT&PF Summit Lake Weather Station 

AKRR Ridgetop Weather Station

Observations
Recent Observations for Summit & Central Kenai Mtns
Date Region Location
04/10/24 Summit Observation: Manitoba
04/10/24 Summit Observation: Colorado
04/07/24 Summit Observation: Fresno
04/06/24 Summit Observation: Tenderfoot
04/04/24 Summit Observation: Gilpatrick North
03/27/24 Summit Observation: Colorado
03/24/24 Summit Observation: Near Tern Lake and Near Sixmile Creek
03/21/24 Summit Avalanche: Manitoba
03/21/24 Summit Avalanche: Summit eastside
03/21/24 Summit Observation: Johnson South
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.