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Tue, March 29th, 2022 - 7:00AM
Wed, March 30th, 2022 - 7:00AM
Wendy Wagner
Avalanche risk The Bottom Line

The avalanche danger is CONSIDERABLE above 1,000′ on all aspects. This is A HEADS UP SNOWPACK as large deadly avalanches could be triggered by people. After a week of snow resulting in 4-6+ feet at the mid and upper elevations with strong easterly ridgetop winds, the mountains need time to adjust to the load. Due to buried weak layers under the feet of new snow, large human triggered slab avalanches are likely on slopes over 30 degrees. These could be triggered remotely, meaning from the bottom, the side or above a slope. Cautious route-finding and conservative decision-making are essential. Give cornices a wide berth and look for signs of recent avalanches and instability.

LOST LAKE/SEWARD/SNUG HARBOR:  These areas are out of our forecast zone but have also received large amounts of snow and extra caution is advised.

Tue, March 29th, 2022
Above 2,500'
3 - Considerable
Avalanche risk
3 - Considerable
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

A group skiing in the Tincan Trees yesterday triggered several slab avalanches between 16 and 30″ deep on the steeper rollovers between 1,800 and 2,000′ in elevation. These slabs propagated around 50-100 feet wide and were composed of yesterday’s new snow.

Skier triggered storm slab avalanche in the Tincan Trees yesterday – the slab depth is around 16-20″. Photo courtesy of Alaska Guide Collective 3.28.22.

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

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

After the major onslaught of 4-5 feet of new snow with strong wind last Tuesday through Friday, another shot of precipitation just ended this morning. This last pulse dropped between 10 and 16 inches of new snow since Sunday afternoon; also with strong easterly ridgetop winds. The group on Tincan yesterday was able to easily trigger many fresh storm slab and wind slab avalanches. These were composed of just this last round of snow. Today, we are expecting those types of new snow instabilities to be a bit more stubborn, but still possible to trigger. What is more concerning however is what this past week’s worth of snow fell on.

Under the 4-6 feet of settled new snow since last Tuesday are various weak layers of buried surface hoar, near surface facets, and facets surrounding sun crusts. Around a foot under that is another layer of buried surface hoar (March 16th layer) and yet a third layer under that (March 2nd layer). We know for certain that these layers were causing extremely large avalanches on Friday when the storm was at its peak. Crowns propagated several thousand feet wide, many of which are now covered back up. With skies possibly clearing this afternoon and tomorrow, it is critical we understand these weak layers are in the snowpack.

If a person is able to trigger one of these buried weak layers, the size of the avalanche will be deadly. We are talking about a 4-6′ deep slab with the potential to take out an entire slope and propagate across terrain features. This exact thing occurred on Saturday at Pete’s North during a short break between storms. Even though the weak layer is quite deep and may be harder to trigger now, if we hit the right spot all bets are off. The folks on Pete’s North triggered a slab up to 4′ deep when they took their skis off and their boots sank deeper into the snow, impacting the weak layer. They triggered it remotely, on a flat spot on the side of the slope. With no good or safe access into the upper elevations yet, we have to be more cautious than normal due to the potential size of this kind of avalanche. This means sticking to the lower angle slopes with nothing steeper above you. With a lot of uncertainty and such high consequences, it’s simply best to avoid the bigger terrain and steep slopes.

In addition to this large avalanche issue are smaller avalanche issues. These would be those storm snow instabilities from yesterday’s snowfall: wind slabs in the 1-3′ deep range and storm slabs in the 10-16″ range. Cornices are also a big concern and could be teetering close to failure. With almost a week of strong winds with all the new snow, we can expect cornices to be dangerous.

For an idea of how much snow, and water weight, is on the most recent weak layer, which is the March 22nd layer that consists of buried surface hoar, near surface facets and sun crusts, see the numbers below. We call it the March 22nd layer because that’s the day the storm began and when it was buried.

Girdwood:  4-6 feet of settled snow (4.5 – 6″ SWE, Alyeska mid and top respectively)
Turnagain:  4-6 feet of settled snow (5.2″ SWE, Center Ridge)
Summit:  6-10 inches of settled snow (0.8″ SWE, Summit Lake)

New snow that existed on the south side of Turnagain Pass (Johnson Pass area) before yesterday’s 10-16″ of additional snow. This photo also shows the deepest of the three layers of buried surface hoar (BSH), the March 2nd layer. 

Tue, March 29th, 2022

Yesterday:  Cloudy skies with moderate snowfall through the day was seen yesterday. The rain/snow line rose to between 1000-1500′ by late afternoon. Ridgetop winds were 30-40mph from the east with gusts into the 60’s. Snowfall diminished and winds quieted down to the 20’s mph with gusts into the 40’s overnight. Temperatures have remains in the 20’sF in the high elevations and 30’s in the lower elevations.

Today:  Mostly cloudy skies are expected with a few snow flurries here and there (a rain drop or two below 500′). There is a chance for skies to break up later today allowing the sun to poke through. Ridgetop winds should remain easterly in the 10-20mph range with gusts into the 30’s at times.

Tomorrow:  Mostly sunny skies with light northwest ridgetop winds are forecast for tomorrow. The next round of precipitation is already looking like it will move in Thursday afternoon and last through Friday.

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

Temp Avg (F) Snow (in) Water (in) Snow Depth (in)
Center Ridge (1880′) 33 5 0.6 124
Summit Lake (1400′) 33 0 0 42
Alyeska Mid (1700′) 32 7 0.6 N/A

RIDGETOP 24-hour data (6am – 6am)

Temp Avg (F) Wind Dir Wind Avg (mph) Wind Gust (mph)
Sunburst (3812′) 22 NE 34 67
Seattle Ridge (2400′) 26 N/A* N/A* N/A*

*Seattle Ridge anemometer (wind sensor) is rimed and not reporting data.

Recent Observations for Turnagain Pass
Date Region Location
02/24/24 Turnagain Observation: TinCan Backdoor/ Center Ridge
02/22/24 Turnagain Avalanche: Lynx Creek
02/22/24 Turnagain Observation: Turnagain, Seattle, Mt Ascension
02/21/24 Turnagain Observation: Tincan Trees
02/21/24 Turnagain Observation: Sunburst
02/20/24 Turnagain Avalanche: Tincan
02/20/24 Turnagain Observation: Seward Highway across from Johnson Pass TH
02/19/24 Turnagain Avalanche: Base of Seattle Ridge
02/18/24 Turnagain Observation: Lynx creek
02/18/24 Turnagain Observation: Tincan Trees
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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.