Summit & Central Kenai Mtns

Fri, April 19th, 2024 - 7:00AM
Sat, April 20th, 2024 - 7:00AM
Conditions Summary

Weekend Avalanche Outlook

Saturday, April 20 – Sunday, April 21

Bottom Line: With warm temperatures, some clearing skies during the day and clouds overnight, we are expecting the chances for wet loose avalanches to increase this weekend. These will be most likely on steep southerly aspects, but as the snowpack heats up we may also see these on easterly and westerly slopes. We are also on the lookout for wind slab avalanches as the strong easterly winds that arrived on Wednesday continue into the middle of the weekend before calming down.

Special Announcements

Avalanche Center End of Season Operations: This will be the last “Weekend Avalanche Outlook” for the season. Next Friday (April 26) we will post some “spring tips” which will be our last post before the first product next season. Thank you to everyone for sticking with us as we expanded our operation this season, especially to those of you that shared observations, showed up to our events, or made a donation to the Friends of the avalanche center. THANK YOU!

Recent Avalanches

Recent Avalanches: We saw very little avalanche activity over the past week. The only reported avalanches were natural wet loose avalanches on steep southerly aspects during the sunny weather last weekend.

Weather Recap: We saw pleasant weather last weekend into the beginning of last week, with sunny skies and mild temperatures. It remained cold enough during the night to refreeze crusts that melted during the day, and snow on northerly slopes has remained cold and dry. The main weather event was easterly wind that arrived on Wednesday, and is still going strong as of Friday afternoon. Speeds have averaged 25 to 45 mph with gusts as high as 80 mph in the Summit Lake area.

Weather Forecast: The strong easterly winds are expected to continue through Friday night into Saturday morning before backing down later in the day Saturday. Skies should be partly cloudy Saturday, with increasing cloud cover Sunday afternoon and a chance for some scattered showers later in the day Sunday. If we do see precipitation we could see rain up to 1800-2000′. High temperatures are expected to reach the upper 30s to upper 40s F with lows in the high 20s to low 30s F.

Avalanche Problem 1
  • Wet Loose
    Wet Loose
Wet Loose
Wet Loose avalanches are the release of wet unconsolidated snow or slush. These avalanches typically occur within layers of wet snow near the surface of the snowpack, but they may quickly gouge into lower snowpack layers. Like Loose Dry Avalanches, they start at a point and entrain snow as they move downhill, forming a fan-shaped avalanche. Other names for loose-wet avalanches include point-release avalanches or sluffs. Loose Wet avalanches can trigger slab avalanches that break into deeper snow layers.
More info at

With temperatures forecast in the mid 40s F and the sun shining between some clouds, wet loose avalanches are the main concern on Saturday. The wind on Saturday is forecast to be blowing in the 30s mph which will help to keep the surface cooler than it would be otherwise, which may limit the size and likelihood of loose wet avalanches.

Watch for roller balls as an indication that the snow is warming, and natural wet loose avalanches are likely to occur. Wet loose avalanches are especially likely to be triggered in the lower elevations near rocks and vegetation which are attracting heat. These avalanches will likely be small at upper elevations but could grow larger in size as they reach lower elevations where there might be less wind and higher temperatures are warming the snow deeper into the snowpack. One good test for this type of problem is to step off your machine, board, or ski and see how far your boot penetrates into the snow. If you sink to your ankle in wet looking snow it’s time to look for a colder aspect. Sunday looks cloudy so it will be less likely that wet loose will be as big of a problem.

Glide Avalanches:  We’ve noticed glide activity starting to return to the area, with many glide cracks opening up throughout the entire CNFAC forecast area and a handful of cracks releasing as glide avalanches. With continued warm temperatures on the way, we are expecting to see glide activity continue. These avalanches are large and unpredictable, so it is important to avoid spending any time under open glide cracks.

Wet Slab: With temperatures as warm as the mid 40s F and no freeze for 3 nights in a row there is a chance a larger wet slab avalanche could occur. This is most likely to occur in lower elevations and could be triggered by a wet loose avalanche. These avalanches are large and dangerous because they are made of heavy wet snow which is difficult to escape. We recommend using the tips in the above paragraph to avoid snow that is approaching wet slab potential.

Cornice fall: With the forecast for sun and warm temperatures this weekend following a major wind event, we are on the lookout for falling cornices this weekend. We recommend limiting time underneath cornices and give them a wide margin if you are traveling above them as they can break back further than expected.

We’re expecting to see some sun for the first part of the weekend, with increasing cloud cover and a chance for some light precipitation on Sunday. Photo from the RWIS webcam at Summit Lake on Friday afternoon. 04.19.2024

Wet loose avalanches initiating in steep, rocky, south-facing terrain will be the most likely avalanches to encounter this weekend. Photo from just outside of the Summit Lake zone in Groundhog Creek last week, 04.10.2024. 

Avalanche Problem 2
  • 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

The strong winds we have seen since Wednesday evening are expected to continue through Saturday morning before staring to die down in the afternoon. We expect small wind slabs up to 1′ deep to be developing above treeline. After several days of strong easterly winds, the most recent wind slabs will be limited by the amount of soft snow left on the ground to be blown around. If the forecast verifies, the winds will be so strong that some of the snow will blow away or sublimate while some of it will land below ridgelines or across gully features. As usual, we recommend watching for recent avalanches and blowing snow and avoiding the places where it’s landing.

Travel tests work well for this type of problem which include feeling for stiff snow over softer snow, digging a quick hand pit, or riding or jumping on a small test slope to see how the wind deposited snow is bonding to the snow beneath. A whumpf or a shooting crack are clear signs the snowpack needs some time to adjust.

Persistent Slabs: There is a small chance that an avalanche could fail on a deeper weak layer of faceted snow. We’ve been monitoring several weak layers associated with buried crusts all season, but they have produced very few avalanches yet. While we don’t expect this to be a major problem, it is something worth assessing for given the recent loading event.

Fri, April 19th, 2024
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. 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

Recent Observations for Summit & Central Kenai Mtns
Date Region Location
05/05/24 Summit Avalanche: Manitoba and Surrounding Areas
04/25/24 Summit Observation: Road Survey – Seward Highway Tern Lake to Portage
04/23/24 Summit Avalanche: Tenderfoot
04/20/24 Summit Observation: Tenderfoot
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
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.