Turnagain Pass RSS

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Sun, November 27th, 2016 - 7:00AM
Mon, November 28th, 2016 - 7:00AM
Heather Thamm
Avalanche risk The Bottom Line

The avalanche danger is  MODERATE  in both the alpine and at treeline on all aspects due to a widespread layer of buried surface hoar. Human triggered slab avalanches 1-2 feet thick are possible today and will have higher consiquences on larger slopes. Also triggering an isolated windslab up to 6″ thick is possible on steep features near ridgetops. Be extra cautious choosing your route and don’t hang out under glide cracks.  

***Observations from the Summit Lake area on the Kenai are showing a similar snowpack. Weekly summaries will begin on December 2nd.

Special Announcements

Motorized use on Turnagain Pass is closed due to insufficient snow cover.  Please see riding area status at the bottom of this page for the most up-to-date information.

Snowmachine Specific €“ Avalanche Awareness and Rescue at AMDS,  November 30 @ 6:30 pm – 8:00 pm | FREE

Join CNFAIC forecasters at Alaska Mining and Diving Supply for a discussion on Avalanche Awareness and Rescue. Topics addressed will be: recognizing safe zones and avalanche terrain, situational awareness and obvious signs of instability, rescue gear and training, and the risks and challenges of riding in crowded areas.

Sun, November 27th, 2016
Above 2,500'
2 - Moderate
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
  • 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

Over the last week the alarms have sounded due to a widespread layer of buried surface hoar sitting below 1-2 feet of snow. Observers continue to find this layer on all aspects and elevations throughout Turnagain Pass. Up until a few days ago human triggered and remote triggered avalanches were happening daily with a couple dozen avalanches reported over a 7-day period. These avalanches have been small to medium in size; just large enough to bury a person or seriously injure you in a ride. With time this layer has been adjusting to its load and becoming less reactive and harder to trigger.  Last nights snowfall, about 4 inches, arrived after winds calmed down and was just enough to cover up recent avalanche activity. Don’t forget buried surface hoar is a persistent weak layer and human triggered avalanche are still possible. This layer has not gone away and should be a major factor in slope choice today. Larger and/or steeper, more wind-loaded slopes that haven’t been ridden still have the potential to avalanche and could fracture once well onto the slope. Be aware of the consequences below you and keep an eye out for recent wind loading, shooting cracks and whumphing sounds.  Practice safe travel techniques like regrouping in safe zones and only expose one person at a time in avalanche terrain. This can be challanging to practice in crowded areas, thus be extra aware of other groups who may be traveling above or below you.


A view of avalanche activity on the popular Sunburst SW face. Photo taken Novemeber 24th before new snow from last night covered it up.  

Avalanche Problem 2
  • Wind Slabs
    Wind Slabs
Wind Slabs
Wind Slab avalanches are the release of a cohesive layer of snow (a slab) formed by the wind. Wind typically transports snow from the upwind sides of terrain features and deposits snow on the downwind side. Wind slabs are often smooth and rounded and sometimes sound hollow, and can range from soft to hard. Wind 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

Yesterday numerous shooting cracks were observed near Taylor Pass and Sunburst Weather Station, where moderate winds were activily loading Western aspects. Triggering a small wind slab up to 6” thick is possible in steep leeward terrain near ridgetops. Be aware of supportable and hollow sounding snow hidden below the four inches of new snow that fell overnight. Avoid steep slopes if you experience shooting cracks.


Several 10-20′ shooting cracks were observed yesterday near Taylor Pass

Additional Concern
  • 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

Several glide avalanches have released this week including one observed yesterday morning on the West face of Pyramid. Several glide cracks have been noted in popular terrain like Tincan’s Common bowl and the SW face of Sunburst. If you see glide cracks give these a wide berth, minimize time spent underneath, and remember these are totally unpredictable. They are not triggered by humans and are the entire snowpack releasing. 

Sun, November 27th, 2016

Yesterday morning about an inch of new snow dusted Turnagain Pass and a trace was noted in Girdwood. Skies were overcast becoming obscured in the afternoon.   Easterly ridgetop winds were moderate (15-25mph) becoming light by the evening. Temperatures were on the rise all day, teens F to mid 20F’s.  

Overnight 4 inches of new snow fell in Turnagain Pass and only an inch in Girdwood. Temperatures remained just below freezing and winds were light from the Northeast.  

There is a chance for a few more inches of snow today. Ridgetop winds are expected to remain light and variable and temperatures should be in the mid 20F’s.  

Cooler temperatures and clear skies are expected tomorrow evening through Wednesday with another chance for snow near the end of the week.

***Sunburst Weather Station has not recording weather data since Nov.25th. We are currently assessing and hope to get it repaired soon.  

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

  Temp Avg (F) Snow (in) Water (in) Snow Depth (in)
Center Ridge (1880′) 24   4   .4   20  
Summit Lake (1400′) 23   trace   .1   2  
Alyeska Mid (1700′) 26   1   .11   4  

RIDGETOP 24-hour data (6am – 6am)

  Temp Avg (F) Wind Dir Wind Avg (mph) Wind Gust (mph)
Sunburst (3812′)  n/a*** n/a*** n/a*** n/a***
Seattle Ridge (2400′) 21   SE/variable   9   26  
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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.