Conditions right now are odd for December in Alaska. Total snow depth is only 15-30 inches, barely enough to justify putting boards on your feet. Exposed rocks and trees continue to be the primary backcountry hazard.
In some ways the snowpack is showing characteristics of typical Spring conditions with point release avalanches possible in the warmer and higher elevation areas. Unlike springtime, the wet/loose activity is entraining weaker faceted snow and volume is severely limited by the shallow snowpack. The freezing rain and temperature inversion started forming an ice crust a couple days ago, but in areas where temperatures have been above freezing for 24 hours, the crust has given way to soft and wetter snow.
This combination is allowing for low volume wet/loose avalanches that can travel at slow speeds for a reasonable distance if the slope is steep enough. Probably nothing to be afraid of, but something to watch for, and definitely atypical for December. Point release activity like this has been seen around Summit Lake and in the Girdwood valley.
We got a report this morning of significant avalanche debris in the Portage valley near a popular ice climb, fresh in the last couple days. This is a great reminder that specific terrain features can harbor problems, especially when you are dealing with big, steep terrain and finicky weather in places like Portage.
Avalanches like this are the main reason why we don’t believe our avalanche advisory for Turnagain Pass is a good indicator for Portage, Whittier, or the heavily glaciated regions closer to Prince William Sound.
Rain was falling across our region on Thursday. That trend dried out yesterday, but temperatures have been above freezing for most of the last 24 hours at all elevations.
This morning we can see a temperature inversion again. Sea level temperatures are cooling off and dipping below freezing. Ridge top temperatures are still in the upper 30s, the rain/snow line is predicted at 5600ft today. Wind is light from the northwest.
Looking into the future, a cooling trend is expected. No major snowfall is in the forecast. This means we can expect a stout melt/freeze crust to firm up this week.
|05/06/20||Turnagain||Avalanche: Pastoral Peak, north face||Andy Duenow|
|04/10/20||Turnagain||Avalanche: Wolverine||Mike Records|
|04/10/20||Turnagain||Observation: Eddies lookers right shoulder||Matt Yoder|
|04/09/20||Turnagain||Observation: Bench Peak||Mike Records|
|04/04/20||Turnagain||Observation: Pete’s North||Anonymous|
|03/26/20||Turnagain||Avalanche: Tincan – Proper (SW facing)||CNFAIC Staff|
|03/26/20||Turnagain||Avalanche: Seattle Ridge||W Wagner Forecaster|
|03/25/20||Turnagain||Avalanche: Sunburst Uptrack @ 2000′||J. Boisvert|
|03/24/20||Turnagain||Observation: Turnagain – Road Observations||W Wagner Forecaster|
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: email@example.com
|Area||Status||Weather & Riding Conditions|
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.