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Thu, January 19th, 2012 - 7:00AM
Fri, January 20th, 2012 - 7:00AM
Wendy Wagner
Avalanche risk The Bottom Line

Good morning. This is Wendy Wagner with the Chugach National Forest Avalanche Information Center on Thursday, January 19th 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).


The avalanche danger continues to be LOW in the majority of the Turnagain Pass area. There are pockets of MODERATE danger on slopes 40 degrees and steeper for easily triggered, yet usually manageable, sluffs in the loose surface snow. These sluffs also may be possible to initiate on steep rollovers near and below treeline.


Many folks have been getting out to the far reaches of our forecast zone lately with avalanche activity seen/reported in the form of human triggered sluffs. These have been easy to initiate from your feet and are running far but, in most cases, shallow, manageable and low consequence. Hence, the snow conditions, and the riding conditions, in the Turnagain Pass zone remain quite good in all areas without past wind damage.

Today’s primary concern will again be sluffing in the loose surface snow. Steep slopes, 40degrees or more, are sluffing easily from the foot. These areas include steep rollovers below treeline as well (the snow here is getting looser every day making sluffs easier to trigger). This avalanche ‘problem’ is very manageable with a bit for foresight as to where the debris will run and avoiding having it catch up to you from behind.

Though the winds should remain light, less than 15mph today, keep in mind, there is quite a bit of loose snow available for transport. In any area the wind picks up enough to move the snow around watch for touchy wind slabs to start forming.

Surface conditions around treeline and below consist of loose snow that is now becoming recrystallized (faceted) during our spell of cold clear weather. Surface hoar is forming in these locations as well, on top of the faceting snow, but decreases with height. Above treeline, in the more exposed areas, there is a mix of wind effected hard snow and settled powder over a hard wind slab. Faceting in the surface snow is occurring here also but at, what seems to be, a slower rate than in the lower elevations.

Note: A quick reminder to fill in your snow pits, as these can be hidden traps for CNFAIC Staffs. A report yesterday explained that one person, with the help of his quick reaction skills, narrowly avoided an unknown fate after coming over a roll and finding an open snow pit in his path.


Continued clear and cold weather conditions have produced anCNFAIC Staff impressive inversion this morning:

Portage at 10′: -28F

Girdwood Valley at 175′: -15F

Center Ridge SNOTEL at 1880′: 6F

Sunburst at 3812′: 10F

With sunny skies, temperatures again should only rise slightly in most areas. Winds have been light from the southeast and will be light again today, averaging around 5-10mph with gusts around 10-15mph on the ridge tops. The strong area of high pressure over Alaska currently is looking like it will shift to the west allowing for a low pressure system to move into the Gulf and give us a bit of a change in the weather for the weekend.

CNFAIC Weather Page and the NWS forecast

Note for those needing to gas up in Girdwood:

The Tesoro gas station at the intersection of the Seward Highway and Alyeska Highway is replacing their gas pumps. Gas/fuel may not be available today.

Kevin will issue the next advisory Friday 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.

Thu, January 19th, 2012
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.