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Sat, March 29th, 2014 - 7:00AM
Sun, March 30th, 2014 - 7:00AM
John Fitzgerald
Avalanche risk The Bottom Line

The avalanche danger is LOW across the forecast area today.

Remember that LOW danger does not mean NO danger.   Cornice falls and human triggered low volume loose snow avalanches are the main snowpack issues today.   As always it is important to practice good travel habits; expose only one person at a time, use islands of safety when stopping in steep terrain, and communicate plans within your group effectively.

Sat, March 29th, 2014
Above 2,500'
1 - Low
Avalanche risk
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 now been over two weeks since the last significant precipitation fell on Turnagain Pass.  Weak layers that were buried by up to 5 feet of snow in mid March have since adjusted to the load.

Aspects receiving direct sunlight have gone through a steady pattern of melt/freeze.  This has resulted in a surface that is crusty when out of the sun and soft after several hours of heating.  Aspects devoid of sunlight (on the North half of the compass) have been going through the faceting process.  As a result the surface on shaded aspects is becoming more loose over time.  Winds from 10 days ago formed stiff wind slabs in the higher elevations.  In areas where these old wind slabs exist, the faceting or “re crystallizing” is happening more slowly.

Loose snow avalanches
What this all boils down to is the potential for both dry and wet loose avalanches in terrain over 40 degrees.  The volume of these potential avalanches is very low at this point.  Despite this, it is still worth being on the lookout for unconsolidated surface snow to move under the weight of a snowmachine, skis or snowboard.  This issue becomes more pronounced in high consequence terrain and will have less of an impact on snowachiners than skiers/snowboarders due to the volume.  Steep lower elevation slopes hold the potential for slightly higher volume sluffs as temps climb above freezing today.

Cornices are starting to show potential for peeling off of ridge lines, as evidenced HERE in the Summit Lake area yesterday.  Daytime heating and a lack of wind will combine to amplify the effects of the sun on these giants.  As always, minimize your time under or near cornices by giving them a wide berth.

Photo of a cornice “moat” that a skier punched through in the Summit Lake region yesterday (Dan Starr photo)

Cornice crack Nancy's

“Heads Up” conditions in steep terrain
There are plenty of steep slopes with firm surfaces that require a healthy amount of careful and focused travel.  A fall in steep terrain could result in loss of control of a snowmachine or be difficult for skiers or snowboarders to arrest.  Pay attention to the snow surface and learn how to anticipate surface conditions by the look and texture of the snow before you are on it.

Sat, March 29th, 2014

Severe clear conditions continue.   Temperatures over the past 24 hours averaged in the low 20s F at the Sunburst station (3,812′).   Winds there have been light averaging 5 mph out of the WNW.

Don’t forget the sunscreen today.   Clear and dry conditions with the potential for an occasional cloud will make for another pleasant day in the mountains.   Temperatures at 1,000′ will reach into the mid to high 30s F.   Winds will be calm.

The dominant high pressure ridge over most of mainland Alaska will continue to keep low pressure systems at bay well into next week.

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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.