Summit & Central Kenai Mtns

Archives
Issued
Fri, March 29th, 2024 - 7:00AM
Expires
Sat, March 30th, 2024 - 7:00AM
Forecaster
Daniel Krueger
Conditions Summary

Weekend Avalanche Outlook

Saturday, March 30 – Sunday, March 31

Bottom Line: A storm bringing up to 8″ new snow and strong winds are forecast through Sunday evening. Expect wind slabs up to 1′ deep on Saturday and wind slabs up to 1.5′ deep on Sunday that will be easy for a human to trigger. Cornices also have the potential to fall and trigger larger avalanches. Additionally, glide avalanches have been releasing at mid elevations on steep southeast slopes. If you choose to get out in the storm it is recommended to avoid steep wind loaded terrain. To avoid all these problems, stick to lower angle slopes sheltered from the wind.

Recent Avalanches

Recent Avalanches: Over the past week, many wet loose avalanches have been seen at mid and upper elevations. Glide cracks and glide avalanches have also been seen at mid elevations over the past week on Gilpatrick and Fresno Peak.  A slab avalanche likely triggered by a cornice fall in the Snug Harbor area was reported on March 27.

Weather Recap: Last weekend a warmer storm brought around 1″ (0.1 SWE) of new snow to Summit above 1500′ and rain below 1500′. From Sunday into Wednesday, temperatures in the 30s F to 50 F kept lower elevations from freezing at night. Northeast winds were light to moderate (5 to 20 mph).

Weather Forecast: A fast moving storm is forecast to impact the Summit area with cloudy skies, strong winds, and up to 8″ new snow by Sunday evening. Strong ridgetop winds from the east gusting into the mid 40s mph were recorded on Friday afternoon. Light flurries are expected on Friday increasing in intensity throughout Saturday with up to 5″ of new snow. Strong winds from the southeast look to gust 30 to 50 mph on Saturday. On Sunday the clouds may break up a little, strong winds (30 to 50 mph) from the southwest should continue, and a few more inches of snow are expected. Temperatures may vary between low 20s F to mid 30s F.

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

Strong winds and snow over the weekend will likely create sensitive wind slabs 1′ to 1.5′ deep that may release naturally and be easy to trigger. If the snow totals verify, these could be large enough to bury a person. It is likely to find a wind slab in upper elevations AND in the trees at mid elevations. They typically form below ridgelines, rollovers (convexities), and in cross loaded gullies. Red flags such as blowing snow, new snow, and shooting cracks are telling you that wind slabs are forming and capable of avalanching. Field tests such as pole probing for firm snow over soft snow and testing small slopes can help identify if you are on a wind loaded slope. With strong winds and stormy weather expected we recommend avoiding steep wind loaded slopes and choosing wind sheltered areas where conditions may be more tolerable.

Cornices will also be growing and potentially fall, triggering a wind slab avalanche. Keep this in mind if you travel under avalanche terrain or in avalanche run outs as these avalanches may run into lower angle terrain.

Persistent Slab: It has been at least 3 weeks since a slab avalanche was triggered on one of several buried weak layers 1′ to 1.5′ deep. Tests in our snow pits have not produced concerning results. This is leading us to believe that it is unlikely for a human to trigger one of these avalanches. There may still be a small chance that these larger avalanches could be triggered by a cornice fall or from a larger wind slab avalanche.

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

Many glide avalanches have been releasing in Summit Pass on Gilpatrick and Fresno Mtn over the past week (March 22 – March 28). They have been releasing at mid elevations on steep southeast facing slopes. Glide cracks have also been opening which look like “brown frowns” because they are large cracks in the snowpack that expose the ground. They can release spontaneously and be large and destructive. If you must travel under a glide crack, expose one person at a time and move quickly past them.

Glide avalanche on Gilpatrick likely releasing on March 25. Photo 3.26.2024

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.