Turnagain Pass RSS

Archives
ARCHIVED - Forecasts expire after 24 hours.
Issued
Sat, January 14th, 2023 - 7:00AM
Expires
Sun, January 15th, 2023 - 7:00AM
Forecaster
John Sykes
Avalanche risk The Bottom Line

The avalanche danger is CONSIDERABLE above 2500′. It is still possible to trigger a very large avalanche 3-6′ deep on a buried weak layer. The potential for remote triggering a very large avalanche also exists, so it is important to be aware of steep terrain above you. Moderate to strong winds and light snowfall today will also make wind slabs 1-2′ deep likely at upper elevations. From 1000′ to 2500′ the avalanche danger is MODERATE. Wind slabs are possible at the upper end of this elevation band. Below 1000′ the avalanche danger is LOW. 

SEWARD / LOST LAKE: This area is expected to be favored for higher snowfall totals over the next 24 hours. Avalanche danger will increase with active snowfall and wind loading and buried weak layers could become active.

SUMMIT LAKE: A very weak snowpack exists in this area and moderate winds and snowfall this weekend will increase avalanche danger. Several buried weak layers could produce large avalanches if the area receives much new snowfall (see 1.13.23 Tenderfoot observation).

Special Announcements

Alaska Avalanche School has several slots open in their upcoming Motorized Avalanche Rescue course in Turnagain Pass on January 15th. This is a great affordable opportunity to invest in your own skills and knowledge to help keep yourself and your partners safe in avalanche terrain!

Forecaster Chat #2:  Join us at the Girdwood Brewing Co. from 5:30-7:00 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 19! CNFAIC forecaster Andrew Schauer will open the night with an overview of the state of the snowpack, followed by a discussion on how safe terrain management changes depending on the type of avalanche problem at hand. More details here.

Sat, January 14th, 2023
Alpine
Above 2,500'
3 - Considerable
Avalanche risk
Treeline
1,000'-2,500'
2 - Moderate
Avalanche risk
Below Treeline
Below 1,000'
1 - Low
Avalanche risk
0 - No Rating
1 - Low
2 - Moderate
3 - Considerable
4 - High
5 - Extreme
Avalanche risk Avalanche risk Avalanche risk Avalanche risk Avalanche risk
Travel Advice Generally safe avalanche conditions. Watch for unstable snow on isolated terrain features. Heightened avalanche conditions on specific terrain features. Evaluate snow and terrain carefully; identify features of concern. Dangerous avalanche conditions. Careful snowpack evaluation, cautious route-finding, and conservative decision-making essential. Very dangerous avalanche conditions. Travel in avalanche terrain not recommended. Extraordinarily dangerous avalanche conditions. Avoid all avalanche terrain.
Likelihood of Avalanches Natural and human-triggered avalanches unlikely. Natural avalanches unlikely; human-triggered avalanches possible. Natural avalanches possible; human-triggered avalanches likely. Natural avalanches likely; human-triggered avalanches very likely. Natural and human-triggered avalanches certain.
Avalanche Size and Distribution Small avalanches in isolated areas or extreme terrain. Small avalanches in specific areas; or large avalanches in isolated areas. Small avalanches in many areas; or large avalanches in specific areas; or very large avalanches in isolated areas. Large avalanches in many areas; or very large avalanches in specific areas. Very large avalanches in many areas.
Recent Avalanches

No new avalanches were reported yesterday. The last known activity was from the 4-6″ of new snow that fell on top of buried surface hoar on Tuesday night. This layer produced several small avalanches that were reactive to human triggers on Wednesday and Thursday. It has been 1 week since the last human triggered avalanche on a layer of buried facets 3-6′ deep on Cornbiscuit. Check out the Near Miss Report here.

Avalanche Problem 1
  • Deep Persistent Slabs
    Deep Persistent Slabs
  • Aspect/Elevation
  • Certain
    Very Likely
    Likely
    Possible
    Unlikely
    Likelihood
  • Historic (D4-5)
    Very Large (D3)
    Large (D2)
    Small (D1)
    Size
Deep Persistent Slabs
Deep Persistent Slab avalanches are the release of a thick cohesive layer of hard snow (a slab), when the bond breaks between the slab and an underlying persistent weak layer deep in the snowpack. The most common persistent weak layers involved in deep, persistent slabs are depth hoar or facets surrounding a deeply buried crust. Deep Persistent Slabs are typically hard to trigger, are very destructive and dangerous due to the large mass of snow involved, and can persist for months once developed. They are often triggered from areas where the snow is shallow and weak, and are particularly difficult to forecast for and manage.

Aspect/Elevation of the Avalanche Problem
Specialists develop a graphic representation of the potential distribution of a particular avalanche problem across the topography. This aspect/elevation rose is used to indicate where the particular avalanche problem is thought to exist on all elevation aspects. Areas where the avalanche problem is thought to exist are colored grey, and it is less likely to be encountered in areas colored white.

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

Human triggered avalanches 3-6′ deep on the Thanksgiving facet and crust layer remain our biggest concern. Deep persistent avalanche problems tend to take a long time to go away and can be dormant for long periods before producing very large avalanches when they get a new snow load or a trigger hits the wrong spot. When the skiing and riding conditions are good it can be hard to be patient and stay off avalanche terrain to give these layers time to heal.

To avoid this avalanche problem we are still recommending that people stick to small terrain features and low angle slopes if you are travelling at upper elevations. The most likely place to trigger a deep slab avalanche is from a thin spot in the snowpack, like where a rock is penetrating part way through the snowpack or wind scouring has created a shallower snowpack in specific areas. Using stability tests to assess deeply buried weak layers is notoriously unreliable, and is most likely to give a false sense of confidence.  Last week there were several remote triggered avalanches on this layer, which means skiers or riders triggered avalanches from lower angle terrain onto steeper terrain around them. Being aware of steeper slopes above you and whether you are travelling in the runout zone of an avalanche path is important with remote triggers as a possibility.

Avalanche Problem 2
  • Wind Slabs
    Wind Slabs
  • Aspect/Elevation
  • Certain
    Very Likely
    Likely
    Possible
    Unlikely
    Likelihood
  • Historic (D4-5)
    Very Large (D3)
    Large (D2)
    Small (D1)
    Size
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.

Aspect/Elevation of the Avalanche Problem
Specialists develop a graphic representation of the potential distribution of a particular avalanche problem across the topography. This aspect/elevation rose is used to indicate where the particular avalanche problem is thought to exist on all elevation aspects. Areas where the avalanche problem is thought to exist are colored grey, and it is less likely to be encountered in areas colored white.

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

A storm moving into the area this morning is expected to bring 2-3″ of new snow during the day and elevated winds in the 10-20 mph range with gusts up to 30-40 mph. Wind slabs up to 1-2′ deep are likely with these moderate winds and could be more sensitive to human triggers than normal and propagate wider than normal due to a layer of surface hoar buried 4-6″ below the snow surface. Wind slabs are most likely at upper elevations along ridgelines and cross loaded gully features.

To assess whether wind slabs are an issue where you are travelling you can get off the beaten path to feel for hollow and wind affected snow and dig quick hand pits to look for buried surface hoar. Small test slopes can also be effective to evaluate if wind slabs are reactive in the area you are travelling. It is possible that triggering a smaller wind slab at upper elevations could trigger a larger avalanche on a buried weak layer.

NWS snowfall predictions from Saturday at 6am to Sunday at 6am. Graphic courtesy of NWS Anchorage 1.14.23

Weather
Sat, January 14th, 2023

Yesterday: Mostly cloudy with occasional breaks in the cloud cover. Warms temps in the 20s to 30s F. No measurable new snow. Winds speeds were light in the 0-10 mph range with some gusts up to 20mph at ridgetops.

Today: Light snowfall is expected to start this morning with 2-3″ in Girdwood and Turnagain Pass today and closer to 4-6″ in coastal areas like Portage and Placer. Snow line should be between 500 – 1000′ today. Wind speeds should increase with the start of snowfall with averages of 10-20 mph and gusts of 30-40 mph.

Tomorrow: By Sunday morning the new snow totals should be 6-8″ in Girdwood and Turnagain Pass with 8-12″ in coastal areas. Snow line is expected to remain between 500-1000′ throughout the weekend. Wind speeds should remain similar to Saturday with averages of 10-20 mph and gusts of 30-40 mph. Heavier snowfall is expected Sunday night into Monday with stronger winds, but forecast confidence is low past Sunday.

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

Temp Avg (F) Snow (in) Water (in) Snow Depth (in)
Center Ridge (1880′) 30 0 0
Summit Lake (1400′) 25 0 0 32
Alyeska Mid (1700′) 30 0 0 52
Bear Valley – Portage (132′) 28 0 0

RIDGETOP 24-hour data (6am – 6am)

Temp Avg (F) Wind Dir Wind Avg (mph) Wind Gust (mph)
Sunburst (3812′) 25 ENE 7 25
Seattle Ridge (2400′) 27 ESE 6 13
Observations
Recent Observations for Turnagain Pass
Date Region Location
02/24/24 Turnagain Observation: TinCan Backdoor/ Center Ridge
02/22/24 Turnagain Avalanche: Lynx Creek
02/22/24 Turnagain Observation: Turnagain, Seattle, Mt Ascension
02/21/24 Turnagain Observation: Tincan Trees
02/21/24 Turnagain Observation: Sunburst
02/20/24 Turnagain Avalanche: Tincan
02/20/24 Turnagain Observation: Seward Highway across from Johnson Pass TH
02/19/24 Turnagain Avalanche: Base of Seattle Ridge
02/18/24 Turnagain Observation: Lynx creek
02/18/24 Turnagain Observation: Tincan Trees
Riding Areas

The riding areas page has moved. Please click here & update your bookmarks.


Subscribe to Turnagain Pass
Avalanche Forecast by Email

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.