A beautiful day yesterday saw many folks out enjoying the backcountry. Slowly but surely people are testing the steeper slope angles – but not the real steeps, yet. This is due to an 11-day old and stubborn layer of buried surface hoar 2-3′ deep in the snowpack.
In the Girdwood Valley, however, things were a bit different yesterday where two skier triggered avalanches occurred. This was in the Raggedtop zone and, interestingly enough, in the same spot. No one was caught, luckily. You can read the account HERE and watch the video. The second avalanche took out the entire first avalanche as the fourth person in the group skied down a very similar line to the first three. The weak layer is suspected to be facets near the ground. Although this is a different weak layer than the buried surface hoar at Turnagain Pass, it is still a “persistent weak layer” that sits under a slab and the same caution applies.
Photo below: The second avalanche triggered on Raggedtop by the fourth skier down the slope – seen on the right. (East facing ~4,000′)
For today, forecasted cloud cover and strong winds may deter travel in the upper alpine, but if you do decide to get into bigger and steeper terrain, it will be crucial to manage yourself and your group appropriately:
Avoid trigger points, such as steep rollovers, rocky zones and areas where the snowpack is thin
Only expose one person at a time
Utilize islands of safety
Have an escape route planned, and communicate plans and decisions effectively
It is getting to the point where the buried surface hoar is harder and harder to trigger in our test pits and time is on our side. Chances are steep upper elevation slopes can be ridden without incident, but there is still a chance you could pull out a slab too. Slabs have the potential to propagate across slopes and carry enough volume and speed to injure and bury a person.
Both old and fresh winds slabs will be something to watch for in areas above treeline. Old wind slabs 8-12+” thick, that formed during Christmas Day’s strong Southerly winds, may still be touchy where they are sitting on weak faceted snow (Summit Lake area or Girdwood Valley).
Today the winds are forecast to become strong from the East – averages in the 30-40mph range – by the afternoon. In this case, watch for new wind slabs forming on leeward slopes. There is not a lot of loose surface snow available for the winds to transport, but enough I suspect to form 4-10″ slabs in some areas. Additionally, the wind direction is East as opposed to South, as in the Christmas event, that will possibly provide the wind additional loose snow to work with.
Watch for plumes off peaks today and steer clear of slopes seeing current wind loading. Areas below 2,500′ will not only have less wind effect and lower avalanche danger, but will harbor the better riding conditions as well.
Yesterday was the calm before the storm. A few high clouds filled the skies in the afternoon while the winds were calm to light and variable on the ridgetops. Temperatures were mild, in the mid 20’sF at 3,000′.
Today, we will see the first part of a large storm system move in that is currently impacting areas to our West. A series of low pressure centers following a warm southerly flow will bring strong ridgetop winds to our neighborhood. Winds are forecast to average in the 30-40mph range from the East. Precipitation is not likely to start until tonight when 2-3″ of snow is forecast at 1,000′ and possibly snow all the way to sea level. Temperatures should remain in the mid 20’s on the ridgetops and near freezing at 1,000′.
Monday and Tuesday, the warm, wet and windy southerly flow will continue. We are on the dry side of the mountains to some degree and models now are showing 3-5″ of snow for both Monday and Tuesday. If the models are right, by Wednesday we could have around a foot of new snow. The rain/snow line looks to hover right around 1000-1500′, but this line could change fast.
A high pressure looks to build later in the week bringing clear skies. Stay tuned.
|Temp Avg (F)||Snow (in)||Water (in)||Snow Depth (in)|
|Center Ridge (1880′)||29||0||0||29|
|Summit Lake (1400′)||18||0||0||7|
|Alyeska Mid (1700′)||28||0||0||23.5|
|Temp Avg (F)||Wind Dir||Wind Avg (mph)||Wind Gust (mph)|
|Seattle Ridge (2400′)||24||SE||11||36|
|01/20/21||Turnagain||Observation: Sunburst||Johnston-Bloom / Roberts Forecaster|
|01/19/21||Turnagain||Avalanche: Cornbiscuit||Schauer/ Johnston-Bloom Forecaster|
|01/19/21||Turnagain||Avalanche: Sunburst and Tincan||CNFAIC Staff|
|01/19/21||Turnagain||Avalanche: Seattle Ridge||CNFAIC Staff|
|01/19/21||Turnagain||Avalanche: Tincan 2900′ SW aspect below Hippy Bowl.||Kris Marshall|
|01/18/21||Turnagain||Observation: Turnagain Pass Road Obs.||A Schauer Forecaster|
|01/16/21||Turnagain||Avalanche: Tincan Trees||A Schauer Forecaster|
|01/15/21||Turnagain||Observation: Sunburst||Schauer/ Wunnicke Forecaster|
|01/13/21||Turnagain||Observation: Tincan||Johnston-Bloom / Moderow Forecaster|
|01/13/21||Turnagain||Observation: Center Ridge Meadows||Alaska Avalanche School Rec Level 1 Roberts|
Status of riding areas across the Chugach NF is managed by the Glacier and Seward Ranger Districts, not avalanche center staff. Riding area information is posted as a public service to our users and updated based on snow depth and snow density to prevent resource damage at trailhead locations. Riding area questions contact: email@example.com
|Area||Status||Weather & Riding Conditions|
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.