Summit & Central Kenai Mtns

Archives
Issued
Fri, December 1st, 2023 - 7:00AM
Expires
Sat, December 2nd, 2023 - 7:00AM
Forecaster
Daniel Krueger
Conditions Summary

Weekend Avalanche Outlook

Saturday, Dec. 2- Sunday, Dec. 3

Welcome to the first Weekend Outlook for the Summit Lake Zone of the Chugach National Forest Avalanche Center for the 2023-24 season! Wind slab avalanches are our main concern this weekend. With the recent new snow and light to moderate winds through this weekend, they can be 1-2′ thick and large enough to bury or kill a person. The most likely places to find dangerous conditions will be at higher elevations near ridgetops, rollovers, and cross loaded gullies.

Special Announcements

New Avalanche Outlook Products for the Central and Southern Kenai!

Last spring the Chugach National Forest’s Seward Ranger District made a commitment to improving avalanche awareness and information for the Kenai Mountains. Over the past 10 years the majority of avalanche accidents on the Chugach National Forest have occurred on this District. In response, and in an effort for increasing public safety, two new avalanche specialist positions were created and recently hired. Woot! This season’s missions will be issuing ‘weekend avalanche outlooks’ for the central and southern Kenai Mtns (Summit/Seward), hosting free public awareness clinics, and upgrading weather stations.

Recent Avalanches

There have been no new observed or reported recent avalanches since the last observed glide avalanche in the area on Nov. 22 on Moose Mtn. (also known as the Engine) in Moose Pass. That being said, it has been very hard to look for them due to poor visibility this past week. You can help us out in a big way by sharing an observation if you get out this weekend!

Like most of the surrounding area, the weather in Summit has been action-packed since early November. The Nov 9th storm dumped over 30″ of snow in Summit and was followed by the Thanksgiving rain event that brought the rain to least 3000′. Most recently, the 11/29-30 storm delivered anywhere from 8-12″ of snow, with snow down to the highway and the highest totals in the upper elevations.

We are expecting a small storm arriving Saturday afternoon into Sunday morning, bringing below freezing temps to the pass and a trace of new snow. On Saturday, tremperatures in Summit Pass will range from 15-25F. Light winds from the south are expecting to switch to the east in the afternoon and increase to 20mph. Skies should be partly cloudy with clouds increasing by Saturday night. Temperatures on Sunday will range from 15-25 F. East to northeast should decrease throughout the day fto 10-5mph with decreasing cloud cover through the afternoon.

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

Between Wednesday and Thursday, the mountains in Summit Lake area received 8-12″ snow with average ridgetop wind speeds of 15-30mph and gusts of 50-60mph, burying the crust that formed during the Thanksgiving storm event. The snow and winds have calmed down for now, but we are expecting easterly winds to increase Saturday night into Sunday morning with ridgetop speeds of 15-30mph. With plenty of soft snow still available for transport, wind slabs could easily be 1-2′ in some places and have the potential to bury a or kill a person. Watch for signs such as stiffer snow over softer snow, and cracks that shoot out from your skis or snowmachine as clear signs of unstable snow. The most common places to find reactive wind slabs can be in cross-loaded gullies, below convexities and near ridgetops. We’ve seen wind slabs failing on a thin layer of facets just above the Thanksgiving crust in some snowpits at higher elevations, which makes the problem a bit more concerning. We’ll be keeping an eye on that interface as a possible persistent problem in the future.

Cornices:¬† The ridgelines are likely to look a bit different after yesterday’s storm. Watch for overhanging snow and remember these can break further back than expected.

Good indicator of wind transported snow on Fresno last week.

 

Current snowpack on Tenderfoot, with a stout crust buried about a foot below the surface. 11.30.2023

Avalanche Problem 2
  • Persistent Slabs
    Persistent Slabs
Persistent Slabs
Persistent Slab avalanches are the release of a cohesive layer of snow (a slab) in the middle to upper snowpack, when the bond to an underlying persistent weak layer breaks. Persistent layers include: surface hoar, depth hoar, near-surface facets, or faceted snow. Persistent weak layers can continue to produce avalanches for days, weeks or even months, making them especially dangerous and tricky. As additional snow and wind events build a thicker slab on top of the persistent weak layer, this avalanche problem may develop into a Deep Persistent Slab.
More info at Avalanche.org

Although we have limited data from the alpine, we are still concerned about the potential to trigger a large avalanche on weak faceted snow buried at the ground. We’ve seen this layer in Turnagain Pass and cannot rule it out as a concern in Summit until we are able to gather more information. With enough recent snow to trigger a larger avalanche and high uncertainty concerning that deeper weak layer in the higher elevations, the safe bet is to travel cautiously on or below steep slopes or avoid them all together until we can get more info.

Weather
Fri, December 1st, 2023

 

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