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Sat, December 31st, 2011 - 7:00AM
Sun, January 1st, 2012 - 7:00AM
Kevin Wright
Avalanche risk The Bottom Line

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).


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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.

Sat, December 31st, 2011
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.
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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.