Good morning. This is Kevin Wright with the Chugach National Forest Avalanche Information Center on Wednesday, January 25th 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 MODERATE for loose snow sluffing. People traveling on areas steeper than 40 degrees should expect small point release avalanches. Wind could quickly increase the avalanche danger by building more dangerous slabs
”DEEP!” is the best way to describe the backcountry right now. Our long weekend of snowfall (Saturday-Monday night) brought over 30 inches of snow to Turnagain Pass. All of the snow we found yesterday was bottomless, loose, and unconsolidated. Monday’s 6-8 inches of snow smoothed over any windblown surface, leaving a consistent blanket of light dry powder. We blazed a skin track to the ridge on Tincan yesterday, stomping a knee deep trench into the new snow. If you got off the trail without skis or CNFAIC Staff floatation you would sink waist deep.
The shear amount of new snow is disconcerting by itself. Digging in, it’s hard to find any really troubling weak layer, but we know that all this snow is sitting on some suspect weaknesses. Yesterday I was not ready to go full commitment onto higher consequence terrain. Each extra day we give the snowpack to adjust to the new load increases our chances of safety. This is a perfect example of when you need to dial back on your powder stoke and play it safe for a couple extra days.
We saw limited signs of avalanche activity yesterday, although steep slopes were sluffing loose surface snow when a person disturbed it. One report yesterday did mention a collapse, which is a significant red flag for instability. Steeper areas will have an almost certain sluffing problem today, so expect loose sluff on slopes steeper than 40 degrees. The more serious avalanche problem would be in the form slabs caused by wind or a temperature increase. Both of those changes look unlikely today, although wind could pick up in certain areas. The copious amounts of loose surface snow will slab up quickly in the event of wind, and the consequences could be serious with all the new snow available to be blown around. Any significant wind will quickly increase the danger to CONSIDERABLE in steep areas.
Snow is still in the forecast for the next few days, although it looks much less than what we got over the weekend. We might have to be content with the 2-3 feet of fluff for now. Temperatures dropped 20 degrees yesterday, and will likely stay near 0-10 degrees today. Wind strong enough to transport dry snow is forecasted in some areas, including Whittier, Portage, and Seward. Turnagain Pass and Girdwood have a smaller chance of wind today.
CNFAIC Weather Page and the NWS forecast
Wendy will issue the next advisory Thursday 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.