Good morning. This is Kevin Wright with the Chugach National Forest Avalanche Information Center on Friday, February 24th 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 region is showing primarily LOW avalanche danger. Isolated pockets of MODERATE hazard may be found today if wind picks up near Whittier and Seward. Very steep terrain will have a greater possibility of small loose snow avalanches and cornice hazard.
We’ve reached the point where standard slopes have excellent stability. A handful of issues can still be found if you look for them or get aggressive. Overall, human triggered avalanches should remain unlikely, small, and manageable except in isolated areas or extreme terrain.
Watch for wind slabs forming from moderate to strong wind forecasted today near Whittier and Seward. There is quite a bit of loose and dry snow available for easy wind transport. It won’t take much wind to create unstable wind slabs. We do not expect this to be a problem in the core Turnagain Pass.
The most likely avalanche issues that can be found today are loose snow sluffs and large unstable cornices. Plentiful amounts of deep and loose snow can be found through the region. On steeper slopes it is easily pushed into small point release avalanches that should be manageable if you expect them. Sluffs are not usually a problem by themselves, but they can turn dangerous terrain exposure into a much bigger problem by knocking you off balance into places you didn’t intend to go.
Cornices built into large overhanging lobes on some West facing ridges during the last storm. Check out these examples from Seattle ridge on Wednesday. Cornices behave similarly to ornery deep persistent slabs – unpredictable, break larger than you think, and may allow you to walk past the breaking point before they fracture.
The snowpack is generally deep and showing good strength and layering. Check out
this snowpit analysis from Tuesday which is still valid today. The top 12 inches of the snowpack is loose and dry snow. This is sitting on 4+ feet of denser settled snow from the 3 weeks of warmer February storms. It’s worth being a little more critical of areas that got less snow in February, including the Summit lake region. These areas are maintaining more weak layers and greater variability in the strength and structure of the snowpack.
The last few days have brought only 1-2 inches of light snow with no significant wind. Temperatures dropped since yesterday, down to the teens at ridge tops.
Today’s forecasted weather will be a short clear window before the next system moves in. Snow showers this morning should give way to mostly sunny skies in the afternoon. The Turnagain Pass region is expected to have minimal wind today, but Whittier and Seward may have moderate to strong wind at times reaching 40-60mph.
CNFAIC Weather Page and the NWS forecast
I will issue the next advisory Saturday 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.