Good morning. This is Kevin Wright with the Chugach National Forest Avalanche Information Center on Saturday, January 21st 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 is LOW through the core zone of Turnagain Pass. Steep alpine zones still have some potential for small sluffs and occasional small wind slabs.
Our extended period of quiescent weather has led to generally safe avalanche conditions in the backcountry. Quiescent is a good descriptor of the backcountry over the last few days – “marked by inactivity or repose, causing no trouble or symptoms.” The only avalanche activity we have witnessed recently has been minor loose snow sluffing in steep terrain.
CNFAIC Staff folks have found isolated examples of small windslabs. The surface conditions are an eclectic mix of good loose powder in between areas of wind hammered snow.
Under the definitions of LOW avalanche danger, there still remains a possibility for unstable snow on isolated terrain features. Small avalanches are possible in extreme terrain. Steep and unforgiving terrain carries its own risk that may or may not be related to very small avalanches. Extreme terrain, which includes areas with cliffs, very steep and sustained slopes, and terrain traps can still be life threatening during times of LOW avalanche danger.
The clear and cold weather is building large surface hoar, primarily at lower elevations below treeline. Faceting of the surface layers is also loosening the snow. Both of these processes could create problems when the weak surface snow gets buried by the next storm. A good rule of thumb is that the longer we go without new snow, the more difficult it is for that snow to bond when it finally arrives. This has been an extended period of dry weather, so travel carefully after the next storm cycle. Expect the avalanche danger to rise tomorrow if the expected snow does arrive.
A deep 955mb low is parked out in the Gulf of Alaska. By this evening we may start seeing the effects of that storm system. This morning will be similar to the last week with clear skies, cold temperatures, and minimal wind. Expect clouds to creep in this afternoon and a possibility of some snow tonight. By Sunday the temperatures should be back into a normal “cold but not frigid” range.
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.