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Wed, April 3rd, 2013 - 7:00AM
Thu, April 4th, 2013 - 7:00AM
Kevin Wright
Avalanche risk The Bottom Line

If you haven’t already noticed, we’ve entered a spring pattern of warm days and intense sun affecting the snowpack.  The avalanche danger will start the day at  LOW and gradually rise to  MODERATE  as the day heats up.  South faces should be avoided late in the day as some natural avalanches have been happening over the last few days.

Other problems can be found on shady aspects, including triggerable wind slab and buried surface hoar.

Special Announcements

The Skookum drainage is now closed to motorized travel for the remainder of the season.

Wed, April 3rd, 2013
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.
Avalanche Problem 1
  • Wet Loose
    Wet Loose
Wet Loose
Wet Loose avalanches are the release of wet unconsolidated snow or slush. These avalanches typically occur within layers of wet snow near the surface of the snowpack, but they may quickly gouge into lower snowpack layers. Like Loose Dry Avalanches, they start at a point and entrain snow as they move downhill, forming a fan-shaped avalanche. Other names for loose-wet avalanches include point-release avalanches or sluffs. Loose Wet avalanches can trigger slab avalanches that break into deeper snow layers.
More info at Avalanche.org


The most notable avalanche we saw yesterday was off Goat Mountain in the Girdwood valley.  We believe a cornice failed due to daytime heating and triggered a slab beneath.  This is a common occurrence in this place this time of year.  The travel distance of the avalanche was impressive, and farther than I’ve personally seen that path slide.  

With continued high daytime temperatures, wet avalanche activity in the afternoon remains the most likely problem to see today.  There are numerous examples of this happening over the last few hot sunny days.  

Heat induced avalanches are easy to avoid, especially when nighttime temperatures dip below freezing as they are currently.  Sometime in the mid afternoon when the snow surface becomes soft or wet, it’s time to avoid south faces, including spending time beneath south faces.  

Avalanche Problem 2
  • Cornice
Cornice Fall is the release of an overhanging mass of snow that forms as the wind moves snow over a sharp terrain feature, such as a ridge, and deposits snow on the downwind (leeward) side. Cornices range in size from small wind drifts of soft snow to large overhangs of hard snow that are 30 feet (10 meters) or taller. They can break off the terrain suddenly and pull back onto the ridge top and catch people by surprise even on the flat ground above the slope. Even small cornices can have enough mass to be destructive and deadly. Cornice Fall can entrain loose surface snow or trigger slab avalanches.
More info at Avalanche.org

The cornice problem is really an extension of the heat problem.  As the sun bakes the mountains and temperatures rise in the afternoon, unstable features like cornices lose strength and may fail spontaneously.  

This problem can be especially dangerous if they trigger larger slabs on the slopes below, as happened on Goat Mountain yesterday.



Even shady aspects have had some avalanche activity since the last major snowfall.  Some of these can be attributed to wind slab over loose near-surface-facets.  Yesterday we found a low elevation north aspect slab that failed on buried surface hoar in the Placer valley.  Everything we’ve seen with this character is breaking at the recent storm snow interfaces ~12-24 inches deep.  These are common enough that all steep lines should be treated with a degree of respect.

Wed, April 3rd, 2013

Yesterday the warm and sunny weather continued.  Wind up high reached into the teens and 20s overnight.  Overall the only weather factor contributing to avalanche danger was the sun and warm temperatures.

Scattered rain and snow showers are forecasted today with mostly cloudy skies.  Temperatures are still expected to reach into the 40s at sea level in the afternoon.  If the sun doesn’t shine today there will be less concern for wet avalanche activity on south faces.  Wind should be light from the southeast.

Graham will issue the next advisory on Thursday, April 4th.  

Recent Observations for Turnagain Pass
Date Region Location
12/04/23 Turnagain Observation: Lynx Creek
12/04/23 Turnagain Observation: Sunburst, 2400′ – 3100′ NW ridge common uptrack.
12/03/23 Turnagain Observation: Center Ridge
12/03/23 Turnagain Observation: Magnum
12/03/23 Turnagain Observation: Lipps
12/02/23 Turnagain Observation: Seattle Ridge
12/02/23 Turnagain Observation: Tincan South Side
12/02/23 Turnagain Observation: Eddies up track
12/01/23 Avalanche: Sunburst
12/01/23 Turnagain Observation: Eddie’s trees
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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.