Turnagain Pass Avalanche Forecast RSS

ARCHIVED FORECAST - All forecasts expire after 24 hours from the posting date/time.
Wed, January 1st, 2020 - 7:00AM
Thu, January 2nd, 2020 - 7:00AM
Ryan Van Luit
Avalanche risk The Bottom Line

The avalanche danger is CONSIDERABLE above 1000′ where it’s likely for a human to trigger a large and dangerous avalanche.  Wind slabs and storm slabs up to 3′ thick are our primary concern and could be triggered on the slope itself or from below, above or near the slope.  Cornices have grown and remain a hazard.  Very conservative terrain management and decision making is advised.

UPDATE:  The lower elevation band, below 1,000′, the avalanche danger is CONSIDERABLE for 12-18″ of new snow that fell last night. Winds slabs in areas with wind effect and sluffing should be expected.

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Wed, January 1st, 2020
Above 2,500'
Considerable (3)
Avalanche risk
Considerable (3)
Avalanche risk
Below Treeline
Below 1,000'
Considerable (3)
Avalanche risk
Above 2,500'
Avalanche risk
Considerable (3)
Avalanche risk
Considerable (3)
Below Treeline
Below 1,000'
Avalanche risk
Considerable (3)
Danger Scale:
No Rating (0)
Low (1)
Moderate (2)
Considerable (3)
High (4)
Extreme (5)
Recent Avalanches

Yesterdays rain and rapid warming contributed to numerous large natural avalanches being reported in upper Girdwood and Crow Creek Valley, through the Portage Valley and near Summit lake.  There was also one skier triggered slab avalanche on Tincan above treeline on a small(ish) rollover. This slab was 2 feet deep and 100 feet wide running 150 feet down. No one was caught.

With limited visibility yesterday, it’s unknown but suspected that many of the natural avalanches initiated in both alpine and treeline elevations, with debris running to valley bottoms in some cases.

The Five Sisters slide path in Portage Valley

Avalanche Problem 1
  • Storm Slabs
    Storm Slabs
  • Almost Certain
    Very Likely
  • Historic
    Very Large
Storm Slabs
Storm Slab avalanches are the release of a cohesive layer (a slab) of new snow that breaks within new snow or on the old snow surface. Storm-slabs typically last between a few hours and few days (following snowfall). Storm-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.

Likelihood of Avalanches
Terms such as "unlikely", "likely", and "certain" are used to define the scale, with the chance of triggering or observing avalanches increasing as we move up the scale. For our purposes, "Unlikely" means that few avalanches could be triggered in avalanche terrain and natural avalanches are not expected. "Certain" means that humans will be able to trigger avalanches on many slopes, and natural avalanches are expected.

Size of Avalanches
Avalanche size is defined by the largest potential avalanche, or expected range of sizes related to the problem in question. Assigned size is a qualitative estimate based on the destructive classification system and requires specialists to estimate the harm avalanches may cause to hypothetical objects located in the avalanche track (AAA 2016, CAA 2014). Under this schema, "Small" avalanches are not large enough to bury humans and are relatively harmless unless they carry people over cliffs or through trees or rocks. Moving up the scale, avalanches become "Large" enough to bury, injure, or kill people. "Very Large" avalanches may bury or destroy vehicles or houses, and "Historic" avalanches are massive events capable of altering the landscape.

Signal Word Size (D scale) Simple Descriptor
Small 1 Unlikely to bury a person
Large 2 Can bury a person
Very Large 3 Can destroy a house
Historic 4 & 5 Can destroy part or all of a village
More info at Avalanche.org

Happy New Year from all of us at the CNFAIC!

Yesterday the advisory area experienced a rapid warming event in conjunction with rain up to 2200′.  This additional load tipped the balance on many steep slopes causing numerous large avalanches.  Last night, winds picked up and rain shifted to snow as the temperatures suddenly dropped into the teens and snow fell to sea level. Over the past 24-hours the Alpine has seen 15 – 25″+ of new snow in Girdwood Valley and Turnagain Pass. Summit Lake is estimated at 8-10″ of snow in the Alpine while Portage Valley was the big winner with over 4′ of snow near Portage Pass.

Today, temperatures will move toward the single digits and winds should blow from 15-25mph. This may contribute to the high wind effect over the past day and continue to actively load slopes on the lee of ridges and gullies. The new load of snow from the past few storms sits on top of weak snow 2-3′ deep along with a documented weak layer of buried surface hoar from Solstice.  Although we have cooling temperatures, the snowpack is still adjusting to the load and large slab avalanches are likely to be triggered. The snowpack set-up such that remote triggering a large slab is possible. This means triggering an avalanche from below, above or adjacent to the slope.

Very cautious route-finding is essential today. There were several observers who experienced long shooting cracks and large wumpfing yesterday and this will likely be the case again today.  These are clear indicators for us to reconsider our route and plan. These and other red flags should be up front in our minds:

  • Signs of recent avalanches
  • Whumfing in the snow under you (collapsing of the snowpack)
  • Shooting cracks in the snow around you

Cornices:  Strong winds and new snow have further developed the cornices throughout the region. With such varying layers and densities within the snow and wind cycles, it’s prudent to give cornices extra caution- limit your time beneath them, and give them a wide margin.

Wed, January 1st, 2020

PRECIPITATION 24-hour data (6am – 6am)

Yesterday: Cloudy skies prevailed yesterday as warm storm moved through. Rain fell into the evening up to 2,200′ before the temperatures dropped into the teens F overnight.  Snow accumulation from 10-20″ near 1000′ and an estimated 15-25″ or more in the Alpine.  Temperatures ranged from 40°Fs at sea level to mid 20°Fs at ridgetops. Winds were from the east at 20 to 40 mph, gusting to 60mph.

Today: Cloudy skies today with a chance for some partial clearing as the storm moves out. Temperatures will continue to drop toward a low tonight of  6°F, with snow accumulations of 1-3″ near 1000′.   Temperatures will likely range from 20°Fs at sea level to single digits °Fs at ridgetops. Winds will be from the southeast at 15 to 25 mph, gusts possible to 40mph.

Tomorrow: Cloudy with a chance of snow flurries all day and into the evening.  Temperatures will remain in the teens to a low near 5°F and winds will be out of the southeast at 5 to 10 mph.

Temp Avg (F) Snow (in) Water (in) Snow Depth (in)
Center Ridge (1880′) 33 12 1 45
Summit Lake (1400′) 33 3 0.7 14
Alyeska Mid (1700′) 33 15 1.7 38

RIDGETOP 24-hour data (6am – 6am)

Temp Avg (F) Wind Dir Wind Avg (mph) Wind Gust (mph)
Sunburst (3812′) 27 ENE 24 57
Seattle Ridge (2400′) 29 N/A N/A N/A
Recent Observations for Turnagain Pass
Date Region Location
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04/17/21 Turnagain Avalanche: Road obs
04/16/21 Turnagain Avalanche: Seattle Ridge
04/16/21 Turnagain Avalanche: Turnagain Pass, non-motorized side seen from Seattle Ridge
04/16/21 Turnagain Observation: Sunburst
04/15/21 Turnagain Observation: Tincan
04/13/21 Turnagain Observation: Turnagain Pass Road Obs
Riding Areas
Updated Tue, April 20th, 2021

Status of riding areas across the Chugach NF is managed by the Glacier and Seward Ranger Districts, not avalanche center staff. Riding area information is posted as a public service to our users and updated based on snow depth and snow density to prevent resource damage at trailhead locations. Riding area questions contact: mailroom_r10_chugach@fs.fed.us

Area Status Weather & Riding Conditions
Glacier District
Johnson Pass
No parking in turnaround at end of the road near the outhouse.
Placer River
Please do not ride along Railroad tracks. Cross tracks at 90 degree angle and clear the right of way.
Skookum Drainage
The Skookum Valley is closed to snowmachines. This closure occurs annually on April 1 as per the CNF Forest Plan.
Turnagain Pass
Seward District
Carter Lake
Lost Lake Trail
Primrose Trail
Resurrection Pass Trail
Closed for the 2020/21 winter season.
Snug Harbor
South Fork Snow River Corridor
Summit Lake

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This is a general backcountry avalanche advisory issued for Turnagain Arm with Turnagain Pass as the core advisory area. This advisory does not apply to highways, railroads or operating ski areas.