Thursday, November 12th UPDATE:
As most of you know, it’s been COLD and clear for a week now. The snowpack in and around Turnagain Pass has been stable with no avalanche activity; other than a few small glide avalanches, more on that below.
This is all about to change Wednesday night as the fourth ‘snow’ storm of the season is slated to arrive; this will be four more ‘snow’ storms than this time last season! The storm will come in a two part series; the first Wednesday night and the second, and more intense, Thursday night. Even though it’s too soon to guess at snowfall totals, I can’t help myself…. models are showing 3-5″ for the first pulse then 6-10″ on Thursday/Friday. Temperatures should be cold enough for snow to the road at 1,000′ but we will probably see some rain/snow mix at sea level. The flow direction for this storm (generally SW) often favors the Hatcher Pass area, so they could see some prolonged snowfall up North.
Future avalanche outlook:
Avalanche conditions will increase directly with the amount of new snow that falls. Here are a few key points:
1) New snow is not likely to initially stick very well with the old surface
2) Quick hand pits are great ways to assess how the new snow is/or is not bonding
3) Slopes that are wind loaded can have slabs thicker than you might think (5″ of new snow can = 10+” wind slab)
4) Watching for recent avalanches! Or the other Red Flags (cracking in the new snow or whoomphing)
Last week’s snow/avalanche conditions:
The recent clear and cold weather as been ‘eating’ away at our meager 1-2′ snowpack. This means areas with soft snow has been faceting – turning into sugar snow. Areas where the winds have hardened the surface, there sits small surface hoar on top. Both of these types of snow surfaces will make any new snow have a hard time sticking. So, if we do get 8-12+” of total snow from this system in the next few days it could be GAME ON for avalanches at Turnagain Pass.
Photo below: Although the snow looks like a hard wind-packed suface, it’s actually loose faceted snow as you can see by the skin track.
Photo below: A look at the variable snow surface in -1 Bowl (Warmup Bowl) before it becomes buried.
There are several glide cracks on Seattle Ridge, Eddies Ridge and Tincan. Most of these are just cracks but some have avalanched. Limiting time under these is prudent – there is no way to know when they may release, if they do at all.
Avalanche conditions OUTSIDE our forecast zone:
There was very close call with a snowmachiner full buried for ~25minutes in the Summit Lake/Paxon area on Sunday, Nov 15th. We are currently gathering details. What we do know is the person is lucky to be alive and had the assistance of a nearby party to aid in the rescue.
Keep in mind Hatcher Pass continues to have heightened avalanche conditions. See their Saturday morning report! hatcherpassavalanchecenter.org