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ARCHIVED - Forecasts expire after 24 hours.
Issued
Sun, March 23rd, 2014 - 7:00AM
Expires
Mon, March 24th, 2014 - 7:00AM
Forecaster
Wendy Wagner
Avalanche risk The Bottom Line

There is an overall LOW avalanche danger in the mountains surrounding Turnagain Pass. LOW danger however does not mean NO danger and there are few things to watch for. These include old wind slabs, cornices and wet loose avalanches with daytime heating. On top of this, we do have a poor snowpack structure to keep in mind – especially for those folks traveling to the far reaches of the forecast zone – more on that below.

Although triggering an avalanche today will be unlikely,  it is the good travel habits that hedge our bets for a safe return. These include only exposing one person at a time on a slope, watching your partners closely and having an escape route planned in case the snow moves.

Special Announcements

For anyone headed out for a “super tour” or long snowmachine ride, consider tracking your day and sending it to the University of Montana to aid in avalanche research.  Participation is simple and anyone with a GPS or smartphone can contribute.  Go to  www.montana.edu/snowscience/tracks  for more information on this project!

Sun, March 23rd, 2014
Alpine
Above 2,500'
1 - Low
Avalanche risk
Treeline
1,000'-2,500'
1 - Low
Avalanche risk
Below Treeline
Below 1,000'
1 - Low
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
  • Normal Caution
    Normal Caution
Normal Caution
Normal Caution means triggering an avalanche is unlikely but not impossible.
More info at Avalanche.org

It has been just over a week now since 3-5’+ of heavy snow fell and a significant avalanche cycle ensued. Since then, mild weather, clear skies and one windy day has produced a few small wind slabs and wet point releases – these have been in the small category. 

Normal caution issues for today:

– Old wind slabs:
     Last Thursday (3/20) winds picked up from the east and formed shallow wind slabs and crusts in many exposed locations. Keep an eye out for leeward slopes that may be harboring lingering slabs.

– Cornices:
     With significant sun exposure, cornices can become unstable and dangerous. Be suspicious of cornice collapse while traveling along or under corniced ridges.

– Wet loose point releases:
      Steep southerly slopes seeing intense sun and little wind will be suspect for triggering a damp or wet loose slide. These have been limited so far but something to watch for in steep confined terrain.

– Poor snowpack structure:
     The settled March 10-14 snow is around 2-3′ deep and very strong in most areas. This ‘slab’ sits on a variety of crusts with weaker snow in between. Although this set up, which produced widespread avalanche activity over a week ago, has gained strength and indicated a loss in reactivity, it is still present and good to keep in mind even in these ‘dormant’ phases. Take home point here is: for those taking advantage of the good weather and long days to travel well off the beaten path, there is a remote possibility of a big enough trigger (such as a large group of people or snowmachines) to collapse a slope and cause an avalanche breaking in deeper weak layers.

Weather
Sun, March 23rd, 2014

Bluebird skies prevailed yet again yesterday. During the past 24-hours winds have been light and variable with a few gusts to 7mph from the East. Temperatures have averaged in the low 20’sF on the ridge tops and mid 30’s at 1,000′.

For today, (you guessed it) another bluebird day is on tap. Winds are forecast to pick up slightly to the 5-10mph range from the East. Temperatures should climb at the ridgetops to the mid 20’sF and at 1,000′ to the upper 30’sF.

Currently there is a blocking high pressure over most of mainland Alaska in the form of a “rex block”. This pattern brings us light easterly flow as we are directly above the low pressure and below the high. Beginning early this week the NWS is forecasting a transition to an “omega block” which will shift the winds to the Northeast as the low center slides to the east.  

In a nut shell:  

Observations
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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.