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Wed, March 30th, 2016 - 7:00AM
Thu, March 31st, 2016 - 7:00AM
Aleph Johnston-Bloom
Avalanche risk The Bottom Line

The avalanche danger is  CONSIDERABLE  today due to continued warm temperatures (above freezing), rain, recent snow and an active glide avalanche cyle. Natural wet loose avalanches in steep terrain are possible and human triggered wet loose avalanches are likely. Cornices fall and isolated wind slabs may also be triggered. Cautious route-finding and terrain evaluation are essential today.  Avoid being under the runout of glide cracks.

*If you are headed to the Summit Lake area don’t forget to check  Summit Lake Summary.  

Special Announcements

ATTENTION PROCRASTINATORS!!!!  March 31st is the deadline to file for your 2016 Permanent Fund Dividend —  Remember The Friends of the CNFAIC is part of  PICK.CLICK.GIVE. Your donations are greatly appreciated and integral to making the CNFAIC possible and sustainable.    Be part of the ‘Movement’! Thank you for your support!

Headed to Arctic Man 2016? Don’t forget your beacon, shovel and probe! CNFAIC will be there all week and offering two FREE companion rescue workshops. Click  HERE  for more information. We hope to see you there!

Wed, March 30th, 2016
Above 2,500'
3 - Considerable
Avalanche risk
3 - Considerable
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
  • Wet Loose
    Wet Loose
Wet Loose
Wet Loose avalanches are the release of wet unconsolidated snow or slush. These avalanches typically occur within layers of wet snow near the surface of the snowpack, but they may quickly gouge into lower snowpack layers. Like Loose Dry Avalanches, they start at a point and entrain snow as they move downhill, forming a fan-shaped avalanche. Other names for loose-wet avalanches include point-release avalanches or sluffs. Loose Wet avalanches can trigger slab avalanches that break into deeper snow layers.
More info at Avalanche.org

We really need a spring avalanche icon for today to speak to the transitional nature of what is going on. The snowpack is not yet completely in a wet regime but it is on its way. This is most pronounced in the Alpine, where there is still cold dry snow that is being affected by warm temperatures. A number of factors are contributing to the potential for wet(ish) avalanches today. Yesterday was one of the warmest days we have had this spring and there was not a freeze overnight in the mid-elevation band. The surface of the snow was wet over 3000′. Additional rain fell onto storm snow last night, temperatures are forecasted to stay warm today and there is the possibility of afternoon sun. Yesterday it was easy to initiate damp-wet loose avalanches on steep slopes around 2000′ and large skier triggered roller balls were observed at 3200′ as the snow became damp. The snow from Monday’s storm all rests on a crust that is acting as a bed surface for avalanche activity. Hand pits yesterday showed colder snow just above the crust that was creating easy shears. Warmer, damp to wet, snow sits on top of this depending on elevation. This may also make isolated wind slabs easier to trigger (more on this below).

Today’s weather forecast is for rain showers that will add moisture to the snowpack and may cause natural wet loose avalanches in the mid elevation band. In addition, if the sun pokes out at all, it could also be a trigger for natural activity. 

Today a skier or snowmachiner triggering a loose avalanche will be likely on slopes steeper than 35 degrees. Wet loose snow avalanches once initiated can entrain more snow rapidly and are very hard to get out of. They can be particularly hazardous if they push you into a terrain trap and bury you deeply. If your skis or snowmachine are sinking into wet snow this is an obvious clue that the snow is unstable.

Push-a-lanche potential at 2000′ on Tincan yesterday. These were gaining momentum and could easily push you into a tree well or tip you over.

Wet/storm slab that occured during Monday’s storm on Seattle Ridge with glide avalanche debris from yesterday on top.

Avalanche Problem 2
  • Glide Avalanches
    Glide Avalanches
Glide Avalanches
Glide Avalanches are the release of the entire snow cover as a result of gliding over the ground. Glide avalanches can be composed of wet, moist, or almost entirely dry snow. They typically occur in very specific paths, where the slope is steep enough and the ground surface is relatively smooth. They are often proceeded by full depth cracks (glide cracks), though the time between the appearance of a crack and an avalanche can vary between seconds and months. Glide avalanches are unlikely to be triggered by a person, are nearly impossible to forecast, and thus pose a hazard that is extremely difficult to manage.
More info at Avalanche.org

The glide avalanches keep happening. As a snow geek, I was thrilled to watch one in action from the truck yesterday by Bertha Creek Campground but I was alarmed to see the recent large glide avalanches around the up-track on Seattle Ridge. The glide avalanche in this location also happened in conjuntion with a storm slab. The debris pile is quite large and runs over well-traveled terrain. There is plenty of glide crack potential still looming in this area. The glide cracks are moving, growing and new ones are appearing. We have been saying for months but the message is important, avoid travel underneath glide cracks. 

Glide avalanches on Seattle Ridge including one near the up-track. Note the slab avalanche that also ran and where the debris from both piled up.


Glide avalanche above Bertha Creek Campgound. We watched this run at 11:30 am yesterday. This ran over debris from a glide avalanche last week. Photo: Ryan Lewthwaite

Additional Concern
  • Cornice
Cornice Fall is the release of an overhanging mass of snow that forms as the wind moves snow over a sharp terrain feature, such as a ridge, and deposits snow on the downwind (leeward) side. Cornices range in size from small wind drifts of soft snow to large overhangs of hard snow that are 30 feet (10 meters) or taller. They can break off the terrain suddenly and pull back onto the ridge top and catch people by surprise even on the flat ground above the slope. Even small cornices can have enough mass to be destructive and deadly. Cornice Fall can entrain loose surface snow or trigger slab avalanches.
More info at Avalanche.org

Cornices: Monday’s snow and wind made already large cornices noticeably larger. We haven’t seen an active day of widespread cornice failure yet this season.  This just means they continue to grow and creep closer to failure. Warming temperatures this week could act as a catalyst for cornices to fall.  Keep a wide berth both on ridges and when moving below corniced terrain.

Wind slabs: A brief period of wind toward the end of the storm Monday likely built isolated wind slabs in steep leeward terrain in the Alpine. These may be touchy, particularly on unsupported slopes and during the heat of the day and/or when the sun is warming them. They are sitting on a stout melt freeze crust. There is very obvious wind loading, including cross-loaded slopes from the storm. 

Wed, March 30th, 2016

Yesterday was a mixture of overcast skies and sunshine. Winds were mostly light and easterly. Temperatures were the mid 30Fs to upper 40Fs. Overnight there was rain/snow showers.  

Today is forecasted to be mostly cloudy with rain/snow showers and the rain/snow line at 2400′.  Temperatures will be in the mid 30Fs to mid 40Fs. Winds will be easterly 25-35 mph. There may be some clearing this afternoon and an increase in winds as the front passes.

Tomorrow is a break between storms and then another system rolls in on Friday with hopefully a cooling trend over the weekend.

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

  Temp Avg (F) Snow (in) Water (in) Snow Depth (in)
Center Ridge (1880′)  40  rain .1   125  
Summit Lake (1400′)  39  0  0 40  
Alyeska Mid (1700′)  35  rain  .2  114

RIDGETOP 24-hour data (6am – 6am)

  Temp Avg (F) Wind Dir Wind Avg (mph) Wind Gust (mph)
Sunburst (3812′)  29  ENE  10 26  
Seattle Ridge (2400′)  31 SE   20    43
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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.