Good afternoon backcountry travelers, this is Carl Skustad with the Chugach National Forest Avalanche Information Center on Thursday, November 12th at 4pm. This will serve as a general backcountry avalanche advisory issued for the Turnagain Arm area (Turnagain Pass is the core advisory area). Local variations always occur. This advisory should be used as a general early winter safety message and is less detailed than standard advisories.
Matt and I climbed up Sunburst on Tuesday to get some baseline stats on our early season snowpack. At the time we had 4-6 inches at 1000ft, 14-15 inches at tree line, 0-30 inches in the alpine due to wind erosion or deposition. Yesterday we picked up anCNFAIC Staff 4-6 inches over the advisory area at all elevations. Center Ridge weather station at 1800 ft is reporting 19 inches. Very strong winds continue to blow out of the NW with averages in the mid teens to mid twenties and gust up to 64. These strong winds continue to erode, transport, and deposit snow all over the range.
We found two main weak layers in our snowpack. One was formed last week when temps rose above freezing and left us with a melt freeze crust up to 2000 ft. The second layer is intact stellar crystals creating a density change under the current wind slabs. Both layers are easily triggered by riders or in some cases triggered naturally. Although these avalanches will be easy to trigger they are generally small in nature. Areas of increased concern and hazard lie above terrain traps, gullies, and cliff bands were wind slabs may be larger.
Take your time getting back into winter. It would suck to get pushed through the rocks early season. Make time to go through your gear and practice your rescue skills. No time like the present to discuss companion rescue with your backcountry traveling partners. Your life is in their hands. Check out our training calendar for avalanche classes.
To answer many of your questions and to solve the Tele Tips mystery of the month! The Forest Service was able to catch up on some deferred trail maintenance this fall and re-established the clearing limits on Tincan Primary, Tincan Secondary, Center Ridge, and Sunburst trails. These are all winter system trails and were in need of clearing. There are a few punji sticks left over that got missed so keep your eyes open. We will recut them closer to the ground if needed, but were covered with vegetation this fall and harder to see. AnCNFAIC Staff snow and I think we will all like the early season access.
We will start our 7 day a week advisory schedule when additional snow falls or changes warrant.