Turnagain Pass RSS

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Thu, April 9th, 2015 - 7:00AM
Fri, April 10th, 2015 - 7:00AM
Heather Thamm
Avalanche risk The Bottom Line

The avalanche danger in the Alpine will be CONSIDERABLE today as strong winds and new snow are expected to cause storm snow instabilities and add stress to the snowpack. Triggering a slab up to 12 € thick will be possible in the upper alpine and if the sun should make an appearance later in the day, natural wet loose avalanches are likely. It is possible that this new snow load could activate older layers and triggering a slab 2-3′ thick will be a concern on steep large slopes. Careful snowpack evaluation and conservative route-finding will be essential today.

Below 2500′ the avalanche danger is MODERATE where triggering a storm slab up to 8 € thick will be possible, but unlikely to bury a person.  

Thu, April 9th, 2015
Above 2,500'
3 - Considerable
Avalanche risk
2 - Moderate
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
  • Storm Slabs
    Storm Slabs
Storm Slabs
Storm Slab avalanches are the release of a cohesive layer (a slab) of new snow that breaks within new snow or on the old snow surface. Storm-slabs typically last between a few hours and few days (following snowfall). Storm-slabs that form over a persistent weak layer (surface hoar, depth hoar, or near-surface facets) may be termed Persistent Slabs or may develop into Persistent Slabs.
More info at Avalanche.org

Another storm has arrived this morning and 6-10” of new snow is expected in the upper alpine in Turnagain Pass. Ridgetop winds have been averaging in the 40s mph with a recent gust to 80 mph from the East Northeast at Sunburst Weather Station. As of this morning several inches of wet heavy snow have fallen along the roadside in Turnagain Pass, and 4″ has been recored at the midway station at Alyeska. Today’s forecast is calling for .7” of water at higher elevations with an additional .3” of water this evening. Rain/snow line will likely move from 500’ to 1500’ as temperatures increase throughout the day.  

This is the second storm to hit Turnagain Pass and Girdwood in the last 48hours. On March 7th a quick hitting storm brought gale force winds (averaging 40s mph) and dumping 12” of new snow in the upper Alpine of Turnagain Pass and 26” at Alyeska. Today’s storm looks similar with slightly less precipitation expected.



If strong winds and precipitation amounts reach their potential, wind slabs 10-12” thick could be easily triggered on steep leeward features along ridgetops. At lower elevations protected from winds fresh storm slabs up to 8” thick could be found in steep terrain. On Southern and Eastern aspects triggering a deeper pocket (up to 2’ thick) may be possible where an existing 12” of settled snow is sitting on a sun crust. Today it will be important to let this new storm snow adjust before venturing into bigger terrain. If the sun makes an appearance this afternoon, solar radiation will make slabs more tender and easier to trigger.

A small (D1.5) storm slab was visibile yesterday on Tincan’s Common bowl. This was triggered near the end of the March 7th storm and is an example of storm slab hazard.



Sluffs will likely be a minor concern today, but if the sun appears wet and dry loose avalanches will likely be fast moving and could pick up speed and volume given a large enough slope.



Today’s strong winds and new snow will be adding stress to very large cornices. Natural cornice fall is possible today and thus will be important features to avoid. 


Conservative decision making is essential today and If the visibility improves this afternoonn resisting temptation will be key. it will be important to give large open slopes time to adjust even if obvious signs of instabilty are not present. Don’t forget this is the second new load of snow to fall in the last 48 hours.  


Avalanche Problem 2
  • Persistent Slabs
    Persistent Slabs
Persistent Slabs
Persistent Slab avalanches are the release of a cohesive layer of snow (a slab) in the middle to upper snowpack, when the bond to an underlying persistent weak layer breaks. Persistent layers include: surface hoar, depth hoar, near-surface facets, or faceted snow. Persistent weak layers can continue to produce avalanches for days, weeks or even months, making them especially dangerous and tricky. As additional snow and wind events build a thicker slab on top of the persistent weak layer, this avalanche problem may develop into a Deep Persistent Slab.
More info at Avalanche.org

North facing aspects above 2,000′ have a variety of weak faceted layers 3′ below the surface. For the most part these have adjusted to the current load, however with an additional load today (new snow and wind) they have the potential to re-activate. This means either a storm snow avalanche could ‘step-down’ and trigger and deeper slide lower on the slope, or a slab could fail initially in these old weak layers. Either way, Northern aspects harbor potential for large slab avalanches.

If you find yourself hunting for fresh snow after this storm, be aware that a slab avalanche breaking in old snow 3+’ down is possible on steep North facing terrain. 

Thu, April 9th, 2015

Yesterday patches of sun broke through the clouds following a storm on March 7th that brought gale force winds and 12 € of new snow to higher elevations in Turnagain Pass. Light flurries in the morning left a dusting of new snow along the road on the Northern end of Turnagain Pass. Temperatures were in the mid 20’s F along ridgetops and reached 40F at 1000′. Ridgetop wind were 10-20 mph from the East.

Overnight winds began to increase around 11pm and as of this morning strong ridgetop winds from the East Northeast are averaging in the 40s (mph.) Tempertures have remained near 31F along the roadside in Turnagain Pass allowing several inches of wet heavy snow to accumulate.

Today’s forecast is calling for .7 € of water at higher elevations with an additional .3 € of water this evening. This will be in the form of rain near sea level. Ridgetop winds will reach their peak early this afternoon, 30-40mph from the East. Winds are expected to decrease this afternoon into the evening. Temperatures will increase to the mid 30s F by this afternoon near 1000′ causing rain/snow line to move from 500′ to 1500′ as temperatures increase throughout the day.  

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

  Temp Avg (F) Snow (in) Water (in) Snow Depth (in)
Center Ridge (1880′) 32   2   0.2   61  
Summit Lake (1400′) 33   1   0.1   12  
Alyeska Mid (1700′) 32   4   0.42   37  

RIDGETOP 24-hour data (6am – 6am)

  Temp Avg (F) Wind Dir Wind Avg (mph) Wind Gust (mph)
Sunburst (3812′) 22   ENE   22   80  
Seattle Ridge (2400′) 25   n/a   22   54  
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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.