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Fri, March 16th, 2012 - 7:00AM
Sat, March 17th, 2012 - 7:00AM
Kevin Wright
Avalanche risk The Bottom Line

Good morning. This is Kevin Wright with the Chugach National Forest Avalanche Information Center on Friday, March 16th 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).


Timing is everything after a big storm event. Steeper South aspects should be avoided today, where the buried sun crust is creating a problem weak layer. Slopes that are more sheltered from the sun will have less avalanche potential, but the storm snow is still settling and bonding after the recent heavy snowfall. Most areas will have a MODERATE avalanche danger, meaning natural avalanches are unlikely but human triggered avalanches are still possible.


Our most recent storm ended a little over 24 hours ago. Yesterday, the Seward Highway avalanche program was busy reducing the hazard along the highway corridor. They got quite a few significant results, triggering large avalanches that slid down to the road level. Check out a video from that work here. This is really good information that is relevant to the backcountry snowpack situation.

Most of the avalanche activity (natural and human triggered) from that storm was on sun affected aspects. We believe that the melt-freeze sun crust from last week was one of the biggest factors contributing to those avalanches. If the sun comes out today, you will be able to see old avalanche crowns and debris on East, South, and West facing slopes. This is significant because the sun crust and associated facet growth is one of our first persistent weak layers of the season.

On Thursday we were seeing very touchy remote triggering on the sun crust during the storm. Yesterday, the sun crust showed only limited reaction in pit tests, but it still displayed a collapsing character. This problem seems to be getting more stable over time, but we can still expect sunny aspects (with the recently buried crust) to be the most likely places to find avalanche problems today.

That last storm dumped quite a bit of snow in the mountains. Breaking trail was quite difficult yesterday in the deep snow. The sheer volume of snow will create CNFAIC Staff avalanche problems on all aspects including – loose sluffing, wind slabs, and unstable cornices. Less than 24 hours ago there were large avalanches being triggered in our region. AnCNFAIC Staff 24 hours of waiting before traveling onto bigger and steeper terrain will increase your odds of staying safe.


The storm that ended Thursday morning dropped 2-3 feet of new snow across Turnagain Pass and Girdwood. Since that time, the weather has calmed down. Partly sunny skies were the norm yesterday with warmer temperatures and light wind.

Today, the weather is expected to be minor. No snow is forecasted under partly cloudy skies with only light and variable wind. Temperatures may reach into the high 20s in the mountains.

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.

Fri, March 16th, 2012
Above 2,500'
2 - Moderate
Avalanche risk
2 - Moderate
Avalanche risk
Below Treeline
Below 1,000'
2 - Moderate
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.