Good morning. This is Kevin Wright with the Chugach National Forest Avalanche Information Center on Saturday, December 31st at 7am. This will serve as 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).
This is the last day to make a year-end, tax deductible donation to the Friends of the Chugach National Forest Avalanche Information Center. We need your help to ensure that CNFAIC can keep the daily mountain weather and avalanche forecasts coming. Donating is easy using the PayPal button on our website!
We rely heavily on the support of a great community of backcountry enthusiasts. Please consider being a part of this community and help ensure that we can all play safely in the mountains this winter.
The avalanche danger is LOW with pockets of MODERATE for wind slabs, and cornices. In general, good safe powder skiing is the norm right now. Local variations are possible that include a weaker snowpack South of Turnagain Pass and aging windslabs at higher elevations. Cornices are always something to think about when people start riding the bigger and steeper terrain.
If the skies clear today you will see tracks over all kinds of steep and high commitment terrain through Turnagain Pass and Girdwood. The loose powder over a strong base is only showing minor sluffing with an occasional stiff and stubborn pocket. Our confidence in the safety of the snowpack is building as we continue to get cold temperatures, light wind, and little snow each day.
The “pockets” of Moderate that I’m worried about are related to a couple issues. Steep and high consequence terrain is where you might find some stiff variability where the wind has blown a slab below the ridge. Those slabby areas are showing properties for the potential to avalanche in small isolated pockets. One way to minimize this hazard is to follow solid protocol in high consequence terrain. Ride one at a time from safe spot to safe spot. Don’t ski above your partner, and communicate your plan before dropping out of sight below.
Loose snow sluffing in steep terrain is possible today. While technically an avalanche, a point release sluff is generally low volume, slower moving, and manageable with a bit of foresight. Check out this paper on “sluff management”.
South of Turnagain Pass the snowpack is showing it’s typical shallow and weak character. There is a notable difference in the snowpack strength between Turnagain and Summit. If you are stuck in the mindset of strong and stable, try to think differently when traveling in the weaker zones toward Summit. Read the Summit discussion for more details.
We’ve had cold temperatures with no major precipitation over the last several days. You might find a couple of inches of recent snow, but the density of that snow is minimal due to the cold temps. Mostly cloudy with scattered snow showers are possible today. Temperatures will remain in the single digits at higher elevations with a light Southeast wind.
CNFAIC Weather Page and the NWS forecast
Wendy will issue the next advisory Sunday morning. If you get out in the backcountry we want to know what you are seeing. Please send us your observations using the button at the top of this page or give us a call at 754-2369. Thanks and have a great day.