Turnagain Pass Avalanche Forecast RSS

ARCHIVED FORECAST - All forecasts expire after 24 hours from the posting date/time.
Thu, February 6th, 2020 - 7:00AM
Fri, February 7th, 2020 - 7:00AM
Wendy Wagner
Avalanche risk The Bottom Line

The avalanche danger remains CONSIDERABLE above 1,000′. Triggering a large and dangerous slab avalanche 2-3′ thick remains likely and continued cautious route-finding and conservative decision making is essential. These slabs are sitting on weak faceted snow and could be triggered from below, the side or along the ridge. They can be triggered on wind loaded slopes as well as slopes in the trees without wind loading. We are in a period that our guard needs to remain up!

*Roof Avalanches:  Warming temperatures are causing roofs to begin to shed their snow. Pay attention to children, pets and where you park your car.

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Thu, February 6th, 2020
Above 2,500'
Considerable (3)
Avalanche risk
Considerable (3)
Avalanche risk
Below Treeline
Below 1,000'
Moderate (2)
Avalanche risk
Above 2,500'
Avalanche risk
Considerable (3)
Avalanche risk
Considerable (3)
Below Treeline
Below 1,000'
Avalanche risk
Moderate (2)
Danger Scale:
No Rating (0)
Low (1)
Moderate (2)
Considerable (3)
High (4)
Extreme (5)
Recent Avalanches

Over the past two days we know of 6 skier and/or snowmachine triggered slab avalanches from Girdwood, Turnagain Pass and Summit Lake. They have all been around 2′ thick. One triggered yesterday in the upper Girdwood Valley was just over 3′ thick. No one has been caught to date and several have been triggered remotely. All of these are failing on weak faceted snow 2-3′ below the surface. Many are being triggered in the mid-elevation band around 2,000′ and outside of wind effect.

Slab avalanche triggered Tuesday, Feb 4th. This slide was triggered at the crown and below the common skin track when a skier veered below the track to perform a stability test. Photo taken the day after on 2.5.20 by Jennifer Dematteis.


Slab avalanche triggered by second person on the slope. This is an example of slabs that are releasing in mid-elevation terrain and in the trees. Location: Pete’s North. 2.4.20. Photo: Leif Mjos

Avalanche Problem 1
  • Persistent Slabs
    Persistent Slabs
  • Almost Certain
    Very Likely
  • Historic
    Very Large
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.

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

Triggering a dangerous slab avalanche that is large enough to bury, injure and kill a person remains likely. These slabs continue to release the minute folks venture off the beaten track and especially into areas that were not heavily trafficed in January. There was a bump in westerly wind last night, which could create some small wind slab issues in isolated areas today, but the main concern still lies deeper in the pack.

That said, we can’t let the clearing skis today sway our decisions in the backcountry. We are dealing with an unstable snowpack in the lower/mid elevations as well as the upper. Widespread collapsing (whumpfing) and several recent avalanches are clues we can’t ignore. The problem is, various weak layers of facets and buried surface hoar sit between 2-3′ below the snow surface. The slab on top is composed of either wind packed snow (wind loaded slopes) or settling and condensing snow due to the very warm temperatures. Either way, the slab on top of the weak layer(s) is showing it’s prime to avalanche and all slopes are suspect.

Some things to remember with this kind of avalanche problem:

  • Tracks on a slope do not make it safe. It could be the 2nd or 10th person that triggers the slab.
  • Remote triggering is possible. This means trigging a slide from below, the side or from on top.
  • Signs of instability may not be present before a slab releases.
  • Small slopes in the trees may avalanche.
  • Consider the consequences if the slope does slide. Is there a terrain trap you could be caught in?

This pit from Eric Roberts around 2,500′ on Eddies shows a failure just over 2 feet below the surface on buried surface hoar. The failure near the top of the snowpack is a shallow wind slab. The deeper weakness is clearly the more concerning in our situation now.

Thu, February 6th, 2020

Yesterday:  Mostly cloudy skies were over the region yesterday. Temperatures were warm, in the mid 20’s°F along ridgetops and near 30°F in the mid and lower elevations. Ridgetop winds were light from the west (5mph) before picked up slightly overnight to the 10-15mph range.

Today:  Mostly clear skies are forecast before another system pushes in tonight. Ridgetop winds should continue to blow from the west in the 10-15mph range before turning easterly tonight and increasing to the 15-25mph range. Temperatures are expected to stay in the mid-20’s°F with lower elevations bumping up to near 30°F during the day. Snowfall overnight could accumulate to 1-2″ by tomorrow morning.

Tomorrow:  Cloudy skies, cooler temperatures and light snowfall is expected before a large storm system heads into the region Friday night and into Saturday.

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

Temp Avg (F) Snow (in) Water (in) Snow Depth (in)
Center Ridge (1880′) 29 0 0 56
Summit Lake (1400′) 27 0 0 20
Alyeska Mid (1700′) 29 1 0.05 56

RIDGETOP 24-hour data (6am – 6am)

Temp Avg (F) Wind Dir Wind Avg (mph) Wind Gust (mph)
Sunburst (3812′) 23 W 7 27
Seattle Ridge (2400′) 26 *N/A *N/A *N/A

*Rime is covering parts of the Seattle Ridge wind sensor.

Recent Observations for Turnagain Pass
Date Region Location
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
04/12/21 Turnagain Observation: Tincan
04/10/21 Turnagain Observation: north sides
04/09/21 Turnagain Observation: Girdwood to Turnagain Road Observations
04/05/21 Turnagain Avalanche: Resort bowl Seattle creek head wall
04/04/21 Turnagain Observation: Center Ridge
Riding Areas
Updated Thu, April 01st, 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
Please do not ride along Railroad tracks. Cross tracks at 90 degree angle and clear the right of way.
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.