Turnagain Pass Avalanche Forecast RSS

ARCHIVED FORECAST - All forecasts expire after 24 hours from the posting date/time.
Fri, March 15th, 2019 - 7:00AM
Sat, March 16th, 2019 - 7:00AM
Heather Thamm
Avalanche risk The Bottom Line

HIGH avalanche danger remains in the mountains surrounding Turnagain Pass, Girdwood Valley, and Portage Valley. 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 – an avalanche from above could run much further than expected.

SUMMIT LAKE (& INTERIOR EASTERN KENAI MTS) – An unprecedented amount of snow has fallen in areas of the interior mountains of the Easter Kenai including Summit Lake, Cooper Landing, and Moose Pass!!! This area has a poor snowpack structure and large to very large humans triggered avalanches are very likely today. Travel in avalanche terrain is NOT recommended.

SEWARD/LOST LAKE – Similar to Portage Valley – Coastal areas will see 2+ feet of new snow today. Large to very large natural avalanche are likely. Travel in avalanche terrain is NOT recommended.

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Fri, March 15th, 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

In the past two days our region has seen a large amount of snowfall in short period of time and more snow is expected today and into the weekend. Strong storm force winds have also been a big factor and yesterday numerous large and very large natural avalanches were observed across the region. We urge backcountry users to avoid avalanche terrain -slopes steeper than 30 degree and all runout zones. Today’s weather is variable across the region with Turnagain Pass expecting 6-12” of new snow and Girdwood and Portage Valley 1-3 ft. In addition strong ridgetop winds will continue to actively load leeward slopes throughout the day. Expect Easterly winds to range from 30-40 mph increasing into the 60s mph this evening. Temperatures have remained above freezing at sea level. Expect rain/snow line around ~1000 ft. Wet avalanches are likely below treeline in Portage Valley and summer trails with avalanche terrain above should be avoided like Byron Trail.

***Today periods of broken skies and partial clearing are a possibility the further you get from the coast. If the sun makes an appearance solar radiation will also be adding stress to the snowpack. This is an additional reason to not get lured into avalanche terrain – even if the skiing/riding conditions are tempting to do so.

  • Storm Totals (Wed 9PM – Friday 6am):
  • Turnagain Pass 1800’:  36” (3.1” SWE)
  • Girdwood-Alyeska Midway 1700’: ~30” (2.25” SWE)
  • Summit Lake 1400’: 35” (~3” SWE)
  • Portage Valley 70’: 1.75” rain (~3-4 ft in upper elevations)

These snow totals are resting on 2-3 ft of storm snow from last weekend that covered up weak faceted snow and buried surface hoar. Not only is this a recent storm snow an issue, but triggering a deeper instability 3-5+ ft deep is also a serious concern. To compound this situation an active weather pattern will continue for Eastern Turnagain Arm tonight and into the weekend with another powerful storm expected Saturday evening. This means dangerous avalanche conditions will continue through the weekend.

Johnson Pass, Summit Lake and further South 2-3 ft of snow fell in very short period of time (roughly 12 hours) producing numerous large avalanches running full path length. Summit Lake and areas in the interior Kenai Peninsula have a very poor snow structure with variety of old weak layers (facets and buried surface hoar) in the mid and base of the snowpack. Not as much precipitation is expected in this zone today, BUT strong winds will continue to load slopes. Very large natural avalanches are possible and human triggered avalanches are very likely. Expect similar conditions throughout the interior Eastern Kenai Mountain region all the way to Seward.

A large natural avalanche near Bertha Cr on the South end of Seattle Ridge, SE aspect. Photo take yesterday afternoon during a brief window of visibility. 

 Avalanche debris at the bottom of an East aspect on Twin Peaks running to valley bottom. 


Fri, March 15th, 2019

Yesterday: A brief window of broken skies occurred early afternoon, but skies were mostly obscured. A mix of rain and snow was observed below 700′. Precipitation increased later in the day and snow totals ranged from 5-15 € across the region. See precip totals below. Strong Easterly ridgetop winds ranged from 20-40mph with gusts in the 70s mph. Temperatures at sea level were in the mid 30s F and at ridgetops were in the low to mid-20s F.

Today: A mix of rain and snow will continue throughout the day. In the upper elevations 6-12 inches is possible (0.4-1.0 in SWE) in Turnagain Pass, and 1-2 ft of new snow (.75-2.0″ SWE)  is expected in Girdwood and higher amounts in Portage Valley. Rain/snow line may reach 1000 ft or higher mid-day. Strong Easterly ridgetop winds 30-40mph will continue today bumping into the 50-60’s by this evening. Temperatures could reach a high of 40F at sea level, but should remain in the mid to upper 20s F at ridgetops.

Tomorrow: Another powerful storm is expected tomorrow evening along with storm force winds and warmer temps. Expect heavy rain in the lower elevations and heavy snow in the alpine. Rain/snow line may push into the mid elevations as high as 1500′ – 2000′. This storm is expected to favor coastal regions, and uncertainty remains about how much precip will fall further inland.

*Seattle Ridge weather station is not reporting reliable wind data at this time.

Red outline is the Turnagain zone forecast region. Precip totals refer to water weight (inches of precip) from 3am Friday – 4am Saturday morning. Note the variability of precip across the region.

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

Temp Avg (F) Snow (in) Water (in) Snow Depth (in)
Center Ridge (1880′) 31 6 .7 99
Summit Lake (1400′) 32 5 .6 41
Alyeska Mid (1700′) 31 10-15″ 1.24 92

RIDGETOP 24-hour data (6am – 6am)

  Temp Avg (F) Wind Dir Wind Avg (mph) Wind Gust (mph)
Sunburst (3812′) 21   ENE   30   74  
Seattle Ridge (2400′) 27   *N/A   *N/A     *N/A    
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Riding Areas
Updated Tue, April 20th, 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
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.