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Sun, February 1st, 2015 - 7:00AM
Mon, February 2nd, 2015 - 7:00AM
Wendy Wagner
Avalanche risk The Bottom Line

A generally LOW avalanche danger continues in the Turnagain Pass and surrounding regions. Shallow dry sluffs in steep terrain should be expected on West, North and East aspects while southerly aspects may warm enough for easily initiated damp sluffs. Also, watch for shallow wind slabs, that may have formed by a bump in Easterly wind yesterday at the high elevation ridgelines.

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  • Seeking the steeps today?! Headed to Turnagain? Or maybe North with your sled or to Hatcher Pass? If yes, consider tracking your route and being part of a nation-wide research project that needs more Alaska input!! Snowmachiners click HERE. Skiers/Boarders HERE.  
Sun, February 1st, 2015
Above 2,500'
1 - Low
Avalanche risk
1 - Low
Avalanche risk
Below Treeline
Below 1,000'
0 - No Rating
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

Another day of brilliant sunshine, warm ridgetop temperatures and mostly LOW avalanche danger will bring in the first day of Fabulous February. Believe it or not, during the last couple days of January the sun was just strong enough, and winds calm enough, to form a sun crust on some steep Southerly slopes. Yes, already! This is not the case everywhere, but heads up when choosing to brave the alders and low snow hazards in search of those sunlit slopes. We do have a few surface instabilities to watch out for today. These are:

Loose Snow Avalanches:
On steep slopes, > 40 degrees, watch your sluff. Dry sluffs on the shady aspects should be relatively shallow and manageable. The damp sluff variety on South aspects however, is more concerning; mainly do to the heavier character of the debris. It is warm at the upper elevations currently (33F at Sunburst) and today on sunny slopes out of the wind, watch for the snow to become damp and event wet. Steep chutes and gullies baking in the sun would be the best place to get a sizeable damp sluff moving.

Wind Slabs and Cornices:
Shallow wind slabs may be found off ridgelines to the East and South of Turnagain Pass. Plumes by a slight bump in Easterly winds yesterday were noted by one observer in the Kickstep and Lipps areas.

*If you are taking advantage of the increasing daylight and venturing far from the road to more remote areas, say on a supertour, remember there is always the chance for finding a wind slab, triggering a cornice fall or stumbling onto some other type of unstable snow. Not being complacent and keeping with safe travel practices will hedge your bets in the mountains, a good general rule for all of us to follow.

Surface Conditions?
Although the avalanche danger has not changed for weeks, the snow sure has. The top 2-6+” of the snow surface has been undergoing quite an impressive near surface faceting phase. This is not an issue now, as it all sits on the surface, but has the potential for becoming a significant weak layer in the future. For this to happen it has to snow of course; not rain or be blown to Prince William Sound. For now however, it is supplying some great recrystallized powder (aka, ‘loud powder’, ‘square powder’, etc.) for those making the trek to the higher elevations. (Check out this great photo sent in yesterday of the snow surface and its varying surface layers as well as our write up HERE.)

Sun crust. Believe it or not.

Sun, February 1st, 2015

Yesterday was marked by clear skies and mostly calm winds – except for Sunburst that had gusty Easterly winds into the 20’s mph. Temperatures climbed to the low 30’s F to the ridgetops and have remained there overnight.

A  hefty inversion is in place this morning along with valley fog. Temperatures are chilly, 5-15F along the Seward Highway, and rise to a balmy 33F at Sunburst (3,812′) and 32F at Penguin (4,200′ in elevation). Another blue sky day is on tap with light Easterly winds.  

The entrenched area of high pressure over Alaska looks to persist through the week. Our next chance for precipitation is on the distant horizon. Models are hinting at the ridge breaking down and allowing low pressure to move in possibly by next weekend.

PRECIPITATION 24-hour data (6am – 6am)

  Temp Avg (F) Snow (in) Water (in) Snow Depth (in)
Center Ridge (1880′) 29   0   0   31  
Summit Lake (1400′) 18   0   0   7
Alyeska Mid (1700′) 29   0   0   21  

RIDGETOP 24-hour data (6am – 6am)

  Temp Avg (F) Wind Dir Wind Avg (mph) Wind Gust (mph)
Sunburst (3812′) 31   E   8   27  
Seattle Ridge (2400′) 29   var   4   9  
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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.