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Tue, February 15th, 2022 - 7:00AM
Wed, February 16th, 2022 - 7:00AM
Wendy Wagner
Avalanche risk The Bottom Line

The avalanche danger is MODERATE at all elevations and on all aspects. Fresh new wind slabs up to a foot deep could be triggered on wind loaded slopes in the Alpine (above 2,500′) and possibly in exposed areas below this in the trees. Additionally, wet or moist snow sluffs may occur today in the new snow with warming temperatures at the lower elevations and on southerly aspects.

Special Announcements
Tue, February 15th, 2022
Above 2,500'
2 - Moderate
Avalanche risk
2 - Moderate
Avalanche risk
Below Treeline
Below 1,000'
2 - Moderate
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

There were no known avalanches yesterday. The last avalanches were small wind slabs triggered on Saturday.

Avalanche Problem 1
  • Wind Slabs
    Wind Slabs
  • Certain
    Very Likely
  • Historic (D4-5)
    Very Large (D3)
    Large (D2)
    Small (D1)
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.

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 quick hitting storm moved up Cook Inlet yesterday evening hitting Anchorage and Hatcher Pass, but just skirting our forecast region. From Girdwood through Turnagain Pass and into the interior Kenai snowfall totals look to be in the 3-6″ range with some upper elevation zones possibly seeing up to 8″. Ridgetop winds were generally easterly with the snowfall in the 20-25mph range with gusts in the 40’s. As of early this morning, the snowfall and winds have tapered off. A break in storms today may allow the sun to make a brief appearance before the next round of snow hits early tomorrow morning.

The main avalanche concern for today will be fresh new wind slabs that formed last night along ridgelines, on the steep portions of mid-slope rollovers and in cross-loaded gullies. These will most likely be in the Alpine where the winds were the strongest, but could also be found in exposed areas in the trees. Wind slabs should be generally easy to see, soft and on the smaller side due to the meager new snow amounts. The larger ones could be a foot or two deep where the winds were strongest at the high elevations. Watch for the usual signs: surface clues (smooth rounded areas where winds have deposited snow), feeling for stiffer snow over softer snow, and watching for cracks that shoot out from you.

On slopes out of the wind at the mid and upper elevations, watch for easy to trigger dry snow sluffs. Additionally, temperatures should be warming today along with a chance the sun could poke through. On southerly aspects and at the lower elevations, we could see roller balls and possibly some shallow wet/moist sluffs. These could occur both naturally as well as be triggered by people.


Additional Concern
  • 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

We are continuing to track the snowpack as a whole and the various layers of buried crusts that, in places, have weak snow associated with them. As we’ve been mentioning, shallow snowpack zones are the most concerning and where we are finding these weak layers. These areas are on the far north and south of our forecast zone and extend into the interior Kenai. This includes the Summit Lake area (just to the south of our forecast zone) where both natural and human-triggered avalanches failed on old buried weak layers during the strong winds during the middle of last week.

The photo below is of a snowpit on the south end of our forecast zone near Johnson Pass. We are hunting down where the snowpack goes from fairly stable (thicker pack) to unstable (thinner pack). This pit was more indicative of Turnagain Pass with a thicker snow depth and we could not get any layers to fail. However, at the higher elevations where the winds have stripped the snow over the season, thin unstable slopes could exist. Keep this distribution in mind, especially if you are planning on getting out in the zones that have a thinner snow pack. These layers could be quite stubborn to trigger, but the potential is still there for a large avalanche.

Snowpack on the south end of our forecast zone near Johnson Pass at 2,300′. 

Tue, February 15th, 2022

Yesterday:  A quick moving storm moved through the region yesterday beginning around 2pm and ending around midnight last night. Snow fell to sea level with 3-6″ across most of the area, including the interior Kenai. Ridgetop easterly winds peaked in the evening averaging 20-25mph with gusts in the 40’s. Winds have quieted overnight to 5-10mph.

Today:  Mostly cloudy skies are expected today with a short break between storms. There is a chance the sun could poke through here and there. Ridgetop winds are forecast to be 5-15mph from the south and west. Temperatures should warm to the upper 20’s at the mid elevations with lower elevations seeing mid 30’sF. The next system looks to move in after midnight tonight.

Tomorrow:  Snowfall and increasing easterly winds should begin in the early hours on Wednesday. By noon, weather models are showing 4-8″ new snow with a rain/snow line close to 500′. A brief break looks to happen Wednesday evening, which will be followed by yet another pulse of moisture on Thursday. This active pattern looks to persist through the week.

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

Temp Avg (F) Snow (in) Water (in) Snow Depth (in)
Center Ridge (1880′) 26 3 0.2 91
Summit Lake (1400′) 22 4 0.3 40
Alyeska Mid (1700′) 26 4 0.3 91

RIDGETOP 24-hour data (6am – 6am)

Temp Avg (F) Wind Dir Wind Avg (mph) Wind Gust (mph)
Sunburst (3812′) 18 E 14 43
Seattle Ridge (2400′) 20 SE 10 28
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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.