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Fri, March 27th, 2020 - 7:00AM
Sat, March 28th, 2020 - 7:00AM
Wendy Wagner
Avalanche risk The Bottom Line

The avalanche danger is LOW today as cooling temperatures have frozen much of the snowpack in place. On upper elevation northerly aspects where a surface crust doesn’t exist, watch for lingering wind slabs. Additionally, glide cracks are opening and these could release despite the cooler weather.

SUMMIT LAKE:  This area harbors a shallower snowpack with weak snow in the mid and base of the pack. Triggering a larger slab is possible on slopes where dry snow remains and extra caution is advised. 

Special Announcements

Chugach State Park/Bird Ridge:  A report came in of a hiker caught and carried around 100′ in a wet slab avalanche on Bird Ridge yesterday. This was around 6pm, during the warmth of the day. Photo below in recent avalanches.

Hunkering Down:  As we all hunker down to help prevent the spread of COVID-19, we thought it could be a great opportunity to share some online avalanche education resources. Check out our recent news post HERE.

Fri, March 27th, 2020
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

Many wet loose avalanches occurred both yesterday afternoon/evening and Wednesday due to the surface of the snowpack warming, melting and loosing its cohesion. On Bird Ridge, just outside of our forecast area and in Chugach State Park, there was a wet slab avalanche triggered by a hiker yesterday. The hiker was reported as OK (photo below). Once the warm weather returns, this is a good reminder of springtime avalanches and how easy it can be to find oneself in a bad spot.

Hiker triggered wet slab avalanche on the SW face of Bird Ridge yesterday, just off the main hiking trail. Hiker was reported to have been carried around 100′ and able to self rescue. 3.26.20. Photo: Anonymous.

Wet loose avalanche on the SE face of Seattle Ridge releasing from snow heating up around rock/trees at the top of the slope. 3.26.20.


Wet loose avalanches on Magnum’s west face. These occurred Wednesday 3.25.20. 

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

This morning, temperatures have dropped into the 20’s°F at most locations and elevations. This has locked up and frozen any wet or moist snow that existed yesterday and a stout crust can be expected capping the snowpack. With a cool northwest breeze slated to remain through the day pushing in even cooler air, along with some cloud cover limiting solar heating, the surface crusts aren’t expected to soften much. This should greatly limit any wet snow avalanche issues. That said, if a southerly slope does happen to receive enough sun and warmth this afternoon to melt the surface crusts, then wet avalanche activity is possible and it’s time to head to a shady aspect. If hunting for and finding dry surface snow on the higher shady aspects, watch for lingering wind slabs in steep rocky terrain.

Glide avalanches:  Watch for glide cracks! What is still possible today despite the freezing of the snowpack is a glide avalanche. There were a few glide cracks yesterday that released into avalanches and one of these can be seen from Girdwood on Raggedtop (photo below). Glides are completely unpredictable and have been known to also release when temperatures cool.

Glide release occurred 3.26.20.

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

As we have been mentioning for some time, the south end of Turnagain Pass and the Summit Lake zone have a very different snowpack that is much shallower and harbors weak faceted snow in the mid and base of the pack. Caution is warranted in this area on steep slopes that still have dry snow. Watch for old wind slabs on facets or simply a stiffer layer of snow over weak looser snow. The cool temperatures should greatly limit this type of avalanche, but it is still worth keeping in mind. Slopes that were wet and now sport a hard surface crust will have low avalanche danger.

Fri, March 27th, 2020

Yesterday:  Mostly sunny skies were over the region. Ridgetop winds were steady from the northwest in the 5-15mph. Temperatures warmed to near 40°F at elevations from 2,000′ and below and to near 30°F along ridgetops in the Alpine.

Today:  Mostly cloudy skies are expected today as an upper level trough moves over Southcentral. Ridgetop winds will remain westerly in the 5-10mph before diminishing further tonight. Temperatures dropped into the 20’s°F overnight and should rise to the mid 30’s°F at the low elevations and the mid 20’s°F along ridgelines. A chance for a few snow flurries exist this evening that could add up to an inch of new snow in favored areas.

Tomorrow:  Cloudy skies and cool temperatures should remain over the region with a chance for a few snow flurries early tomorrow morning. Ridgetop winds will continue to blow from the northwest. Beginning Saturday night, clearing skies and colder air heads in through early next week.

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

Temp Avg (F) Snow (in) Water (in) Snow Depth (in)
Center Ridge (1880′) 34 0 0 64
Summit Lake (1400′) 30 0 0 29
Alyeska Mid (1700′) 32 0 0 72

RIDGETOP 24-hour data (6am – 6am)

Temp Avg (F) Wind Dir Wind Avg (mph) Wind Gust (mph)
Sunburst (3812′) 23 W 8 25
Seattle Ridge (2400′) 28 NW 12 26
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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.