Turnagain Pass Avalanche Forecast RSS

ARCHIVED FORECAST - All forecasts expire after 24 hours from the posting date/time.
Thu, March 14th, 2019 - 7:00AM
Fri, March 15th, 2019 - 7:00AM
Heather Thamm
Avalanche Warning
Issued: March 14, 2019 7:00 am
Travel in avalanche terrain is not recommended. Avoid being on or beneath all steep slopes.
Avalanche risk The Bottom Line

A BACKCOUNTRY AVALANCHE WARNING has been issued through the National Weather Service for the Turnagain Pass area and surrounding mountains.

Heavy snowfall and strong winds have created a HIGH avalanche danger in the mountains surrounding Turnagain Pass, Girdwood Valley, Portage Valley, and areas on the Kenai including Summit Lake and the Seward zone. Dangerous avalanche conditions are expected on all slopes 30 degrees and steeper – including runout zones. Avalanches are expected to release naturally, be easily triggered by people and send debris to valley floors. Travel in avalanche terrain is NOT recommended. Areas with steep slopes above should be avoided, such as the Byron Glacier Trail and the Seattle Ridge Uptrack. Even small terrain features could act as deadly traps.

Thanks to our sponsors!
Thu, March 14th, 2019
Above 2,500'
High (4)
Avalanche risk
High (4)
Avalanche risk
Below Treeline
Below 1,000'
High (4)
Avalanche risk
Above 2,500'
Avalanche risk
High (4)
Avalanche risk
High (4)
Below Treeline
Below 1,000'
Avalanche risk
High (4)
Danger Scale:
No Rating (0)
Low (1)
Moderate (2)
Considerable (3)
High (4)
Extreme (5)
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

Today’s message is simple. Stay out of the mountains and avoid all avalanche terrain. Over the last 24 hours Turnagain pass has received 30 inches of new snow (2.4 inches SWE.) Alyeska mid way station in Girdwood has seen 19 inches. We expect similar if not more snow in the upper elevations of Portage Valley and the mountain surrounding Seward. Strong Easterly winds 40-60 mph occurred overnight and today’s winds will remain strong, 25-45 mph throughout the day. Another 6-12 inches of new snow is expected and another storm is on the horizon tomorrow, Friday. This afternoon winds will shift to the South bringing in warmer air and rain/snow line may increase to 1500 ft.

In the upper elevations expect large to very large dry avalanches to release naturally. Slab avalanches are expected to be 2-5+ feet deep and run long distances. In the lower elevations below 1000 ft, where rain is falling, wet avalanches are expected. The only way to manage this avalanche hazard is to stay well away from any avalanche terrain, slopes steeper than 30 degree and all runout zones. This includes giving Seattle Ridge plenty of space in the flats, as well avoiding any trails that go under avalanche terrain where it may be raining, like Bryon Glacier trail or the Bird to Gird Bike Path.

An active weather pattern will continue for Eastern Turnagain Arm tomorrow and into the weekend with several more storms headed this direction. The avalanche danger is expected to remain HIGH until this pattern changes and precipitation and winds back off.

South of Turnagain in Summit Lake where a variety of old weak layers (facets and buried surface hoar) sit in the mid and base of the snowpack, today’s rapid loading event is expected to cause natural avalanches. Although less snow has fallen than Turnagain, 1-2 feet of new snow is enough to tip the balance, not to mention strong winds. Expect natural avalanche activity throughout our entire Eastern Kenai Mountain region all the way to Seward.

Turnagain Pass DOT snow stake at the RWIS weather station (1000 ft) is showing over 3 feet of new since 3/12/19 at 9:30pm when this storm began. 

Photo taken yesterday in the Tincan trees with only 8″ of new snow. Small steep terrain features were releasing easily with the weight of a skier. This snow is releasing on a very slick melt freeze crust below 2500 ft. Now there is 3-4 feet of snow on this same bed surface. Small terrain features could be very dangerous today, even in places we often think of as safe, like Tincan trees. Photo by Andy Moterow.


Thu, March 14th, 2019

Yesterday: Snow showers favored Turnagain Pass and intensity increased overnight for total of 30 inches, (2.4 inches SWE) in 24 hours. In Girdwood precip was light most of the day until the evening and 19 inches of snow (1.0 inch of SWE) fell at Alyeska Mid way station. Ridgetop winds from the NE were 20-40mph range and increased in the evening with gusts in the 60-70s mph at Sunburst weather station. Temperature remained just above freezing at sea level overnight and low to mid-20s F near ridgetops. Rain/snow line is estimated around 500 ft overnight.

Today: A mix of rain and snow will continue throughout the day. In the upper elevations 6-12 inches is possible 0.4-0.9 inches rain below 1000 ft. Rain/snow line may reach 1500 ft mid-day. Ridge top winds will shift from the East to the South and decrease to 25-35mph with gusts in the 40s mph. Temperatures should remain in the mid to upper 20s F in the upper elevations.

Tomorrow: Heavy snow and rain is expected tomorrow as another storm tracks into our region. Strong Easterly ridgetop winds will continue throughout the day. Above freezing temperatures are expected in the lower elevations and may push into the mid elevations. Rain/snow line may be around 1500 ft. More storms are expected over the weekend and into next week.

*Seattle Ridge weather station is not reporting reliable wind data and the snow depth sensor at Summit Lake Snotel is not accurate as of 7am.

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

Temp Avg (F) Snow (in) Water (in) Snow Depth (in)
Center Ridge (1880′) 30 30″ 2.4 100
Summit Lake (1400′) 31 ~14″ 0.7 *N/A
Alyeska Mid (1700′) 30 19″ 1.0 85

RIDGETOP 24-hour data (6am – 6am)

  Temp Avg (F) Wind Dir Wind Avg (mph) Wind Gust (mph)
Sunburst (3812′) 20   ENE   32   79  
Seattle Ridge (2400′) 26   *N/A   *N/A     *N/A    
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
04/15/21 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
04/03/21 Turnagain Observation: Repeat Offender – Seattle 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

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.