Turnagain Pass RSS

ARCHIVED - Forecasts expire after 24 hours.
Tue, March 14th, 2023 - 7:00AM
Wed, March 15th, 2023 - 7:00AM
Andrew Schauer
Avalanche risk The Bottom Line

The avalanche danger will be LOW for most of the day, rising to MODERATE this evening as an approaching storm begins to impact our area. Conditions are expected to start out generally stable, but the avalanche danger will be on the rise later in the day as the weather picks up. As always, maintain safe travel protocol while you are out today, and be aware of increasing danger if the storm arrives sooner than expected.

PETE’S NORTH to JOHNSON PASS: The snowpack in this southern corner of our advisory area has a weak layer buried around 1-2′ deep that is still making it possible to trigger a large avalanche. If you plan to get out in this zone, be sure to evaluate the snow and terrain carefully before committing to steep slopes.

SUMMIT LAKE: The snowpack in the Summit Lake area is generally thinner and weaker than our core advisory area. Large human-triggered avalanches remain possible, which requires a more cautious mindset while choosing terrain.

Special Announcements

Turnagain Pass Avalanche Awareness Day – this Saturday!

On March 18th swing by the Turnagain Pass moto lot on your way to or from your backcountry ride or ski!! Test your beacon skills, chow down on hot dogs, and bring your questions for CNFAIC forecasters. The Alaska Avalanche School will be there along with a chance to demo snowmachines from Alaska Mining and Diving Supply and Anchorage Yamaha and Polaris. More details HERE

Tue, March 14th, 2023
Above 2,500'
1 - Low
Avalanche risk
1 - Low
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

Yesterday skiers reported a small natural avalanche on the Eddie’s Headwall. It looks like it may have been triggered by a falling cornice, and is probably a few days old. More details in this observation.

Photo of the Eddie’s Headwall, taken yesterday. The avalanche looks to be a few days old. Photo: Eric Steinfort, 03.13.2023

Avalanche Problem 1
  • Normal Caution
    Normal Caution
Normal Caution
Normal Caution means triggering an avalanche is unlikely but not impossible.
More info at Avalanche.org

The biggest factor driving the avalanche danger today is the timing of the approaching storm. It is looking like we won’t see very much precipitation until shortly before sunset today, which means the avalanche conditions should stay generally safe for most of the day. It will be important to pay attention to changing conditions as the weather picks up, and look out for increasing avalanche danger if the storm arrives sooner than expected.

Until it starts snowing, the main thing to watch out for will be small avalanches in isolated upper-elevation terrain. It is important to remember that although the danger is low, it is not impossible to trigger an avalanche. With a few hours of gusty winds yesterday afternoon, there may be some lurking pockets of reactive wind slabs. Stay smart with your travel habits- only exposing one person at a time to steep terrain and watching partners from safe spots out of avalanche runout zones. With deteriorating weather conditions expected today, it is probably a good idea to plan on getting out of the mountains a little earlier so you don’t get stuck in an uncomfortable situation as the storm ramps up and avalanche danger starts to rise.

It’s not much, but it is something! Snowfall is expected to start this afternoon and continue through Wednesday. There is high uncertainty with timing, and some areas may see higher snow totals. Be on the lookout for increasing danger as the storm ramps up. Graphic courtesy of NWS Anchorage. 03.14.2023

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 still concerned with the possibility of triggering a larger avalanche on a layer of weak facets buried about a foot deep down in the southern edge of our forecast area. This layer is most problematic between Pete’s North and Johnson Pass, and was the culprit in a large skier-triggered avalanche last Monday (3/6). These stubborn persistent weak layers can be difficult to predict, so the best way to manage them is by avoiding steep slopes in this area.

Tue, March 14th, 2023

Yesterday: Skies were mostly sunny with a few clouds moving in later in the day. Winds were 5-10 mph out of the west for most of the day, with a few hours in the afternoon of speeds around 10-15 and gusts as high as 30 mph on Max’s. Portage recorded stronger easterly to northeasterly winds at around 5-15 mph with gusts around 25 mph. Temperatures reached the low to mid 20’s at lower elevations, staying in the single digits to low teens near ridgetops during the day, and dropped down to single digits above and below zero overnight. No precipitation was recorded yesterday.

Today: A pattern change is underway as a low pressure system in the Gulf brings increasing cloud cover and winds switching back to the east at 5-10 mph with gusts of 10-20 mph. The weather is looking to get more active late in the afternoon, with increasing winds and snowfall expected to start around 4 pm. We will likely only see a trace to 2” snow during daylight hours today, with another 2-4” possible tonight. Precipitation during this storm is expected to be spotty and difficult to predict, so some areas may see more than double those precipitation totals. Temperatures are expected to get into the mid to upper teens F during the day before dropping slightly to the low to mid teens early tonight. It is looking like snow line should stay down to sea level for this first round of precipitation.

Tomorrow: Snowfall should continue tonight into tomorrow, with another 1-2” likely during the day tomorrow. Easterly winds are expected to pick up tonight, blowing 15-25 mph with gusts of 20-30 before backing off slightly during the day tomorrow. Skies should be mostly cloudy during the day and high temperatures are expected to be in the low to mid 20’s F with lows in the low to mid teens F.

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

Temp Avg (F) Snow (in) Water (in) Snow Depth (in)
Center Ridge (1880′) 16 0 0 64
Summit Lake (1400′) 13 0 0 37
Alyeska Mid (1700′) 16 0 0 64
Bear Valley – Portage (132′) 15 0 0

RIDGETOP 24-hour data (6am – 6am)

Temp Avg (F) Wind Dir Wind Avg (mph) Wind Gust (mph)
Sunburst (3812′) 3 WNW 4 15
Seattle Ridge (2400′) 9 NW 4 14
Recent Observations for Turnagain Pass
Date Region Location
12/01/23 Avalanche: Sunburst
12/01/23 Turnagain Observation: Eddie’s trees
12/01/23 Turnagain Observation: Turnagain – God’s Country
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11/27/23 Turnagain Avalanche: Tincan Ridge
11/26/23 Turnagain Observation: Road report: Slide with dirt on Repeat offender
11/26/23 Turnagain Observation: Pete’s North
11/25/23 Turnagain Observation: Tincan trees
11/21/23 Observation: Spokane Creek
11/20/23 Turnagain Observation: Sunburst
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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.