Good morning. This is Kevin Wright with the Chugach National Forest Avalanche Information Center on Wednesday, February 22nd 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 has been our longest break from snowfall in 2 weeks. The danger rating has dropped to MODERATE, the lowest we’ve seen in February. We have good information today that our storm snow is settling and stabilizing quickly. Uncertainty remains because we have dealt with so much snow over the last 3 weeks, which has kept people from traveling very far during constant stormy weather.
Our latest storm ended more than 24 hours ago. Wind and snowfall has diminished and temperatures dropped last night. The avalanche danger is on a decreasing trend.
I have to admit that I get a bit nervous when the skies clear after 3 weeks of constant snowfall. The question today is – Where is it appropriate to travel? The answer should be – “Start conservatively and work up slowly if conditions allow.” Larger avalanches will be unlikely, but smaller avalanches in steeper terrain are still possible. The longer we wait since the last snowfall, the more stable the mountains will get.
Wind slabs in steep terrain above treeline. This problem, along with associated consequences, will increase as the slope angle increases. We can expect a buried wind slab near ridge tops and on high elevation rollovers. A fresh layer of soft non-winded snow at the end of the last storm makes it more difficult to identify where the wind deposited the most snow.
Below treeline we can expect good stability and loose snow avalanche concerns. Perhaps one of the more dangerous stability issues can be found on the massive mushroom overhangs found in small cliffy areas. Some of these can build quite large and unstable, breaking off when a rider weights the edge of the overhang.
Partly sunny skies are in the forecast, and even a quick break could start the melting process on South faces. Watch for sun induced sluffs and a melt-freeze crust to form if we get sun exposure this afternoon.
Remember, sunny skies and good quality snow don’t necessarily mean safe conditions. All of us (myself included) need to play according to the mountain’s schedule. This means being patient to wait for stability. If the weather forecast proves true, we may get the green light in the next few days. For today, a defensive approach to steep terrain is warranted. Find some test slopes and ride them one at a time. Avoid areas with terrain traps and high consequences until we get more information pointing towards stability.
No additional snow has fallen since the last avalanche forecast was issued yesterday. Wind has been light and temperatures held steady, then started to drop last night. Weather in the last 24 hours has been promoting increased stability in the snowpack.
Today we still have a chance of snow, but the forecast only calls for a trace. A West wind should be light and temperatures are expected to stay cold with a subtle rise during the heat of the day. More stable weather is expected for the next several days.
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.