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Thu, January 12th, 2017 - 7:00AM
Fri, January 13th, 2017 - 7:00AM
Heather Thamm
Avalanche risk The Bottom Line

There is a generally  LOW  avalanche danger in the mountains surrounding Turnagain Pass. Although triggering a slab avalanche is unlikely, old hard wind slabs 1-3′ thick sitting on faceted snow remain in some places. With the right trigger spot and/or the right amount of force (several people and/or snowmachines) it may not be impossible to get a slab to pop out. Most suspect areas are unsupported slopes in steep rocky terrain.    Additionally, avoid being underneath glide cracks as these have been active over the last week.

Special Announcements

Join us tonight, Thursday January 12th, 6:30pm, for a FREE basic avalanche awareness and discussion by  CNFAIC on the current snowpack in Turnagain Pass  at the Alaska Avalanche School, Details  HERE.  

* Hatcher Pass continues to have  unstable conditions,  check the Hatcher Pass advisory  HERE  if you are thinking of heading this way. Also – mark your calendars for the  FREE rescue workshop at Hatcher Pass on January 14th.  More info  HERE.  

Thu, January 12th, 2017
Above 2,500'
1 - Low
Avalanche risk
1 - Low
Avalanche risk
Below Treeline
Below 1,000'
1 - Low
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

It is always important to keep in mind that LOW avalanche hazard does not mean NO avalanche hazard. It has been two weeks since a big wind event caused widespread avalanches throughout our region. This wind event left behind a variable snowpack in the alpine including wind affected hard/old slabs, anti tracks, scoured ridges, sastrugi, breakable wind crust, and in protected areas, pockets of soft old faceted snow. If heading out into the mountains today remember the snowpack has a poor structure on upper elevation slopes that have not avalanched and that were loaded by past winds (mainly on North and East aspects). Hard wind slabs sit on faceted snow and/or buried surface hoar in some places. Luckily stable weather conditions have been helping the snowpack adjust over the last few weeks. Due to the variability across our region triggering a stubborn old hard slab is not completely out of the question. Thin rocky areas and steep convexities with poor snowpack structure are most suspect. This particular set-up has more potential in the periphery areas like Johnson Pass, Girdwood Valley and Summit Lake where a generally thinner snowpack exists.

As always practicing safe travel protocol is key (exposing one person at a time, grouping up in safe zones and having an escape route planned). Looking at potential consequences of even a small avalanche in complex steep terrain is an important consideration before committing to a slope. 

Below is a photo of an East facing slope on the South end of Seattle Ridge near Berth Creek Campground. Snow depths in this area vary from 6″ to 18″, about 1/2 the overall depth compared to the North side of the pass on this same aspect.



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

Last week 3 glide cracks released and more have been slowly moving and opening up this weak in some areas of Turnagain Pass.  Known cracks exist on the South face of Eddie’s, Goldpan (behind the Magnum ridge), East face of Seattle Ridge (Northern end), Main Bowl and Southerly slopes near Johnson Pass. It is important to be on the look out for glide cracks as you move through the mountains and avoid spending time underneath. Glide cracks are unpredictable and can release without warning. 


Thu, January 12th, 2017

Yesterday skies were clear, winds were light from West and thick valley fog accompanied inverted air. This inversion has been in place for 4 days, but was loosing some strength with upper air temperatures dropping into the mid 20’s F. Cold air remained in valley bottoms and temperatures varied from -8 to 12 F.  

Today clear skies will become cloudy by the evening and valley fog should dissipate.   Warm air from above will mix with the cooler surface air and temperatures are expected to average in the teens (F.) Light ridge top winds will shift from a Westerly direction to an Easterly by this evening with a chance of precipitation after midnight.  

Tomorrow snow flurries are expected throughout the day with up to a few inches of accumulation. Temperatures may increase into the high 20F’s and winds are expected to remain light from the East. Much uncertainty exists this weekend for Southcentral, Alaska as cold arctic air impacts interior Alaska and another low pressure moves in from the Gulf. Depending on how these two systems impact our region we could see either very cold temperatures or another round of snow showers by Sunday.

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

  Temp Avg (F) Snow (in) Water (in) Snow Depth (in)
Center Ridge (1880′) 18   0   0   34  
Summit Lake (1400′) 5   0    0  11
Alyeska Mid (1700′) 17   0   0   21  

RIDGETOP 24-hour data (6am – 6am)

  Temp Avg (F) Wind Dir Wind Avg (mph) Wind Gust (mph)
Sunburst (3812′) 23   W   7   18  
Seattle Ridge (2400′) 24   W   5   17  
Recent Observations for Turnagain Pass
Date Region Location
05/13/24 Turnagain Observation: Eddie’s, Sunburst, Seattle, Cornbiscuit, Pete’s South
05/13/24 Turnagain Observation: Turnagain Pass non-motorized side
05/12/24 Turnagain Observation: Warm up Bowl
05/07/24 Turnagain Observation: Turnagain Pass Wet Slabs
04/29/24 Turnagain Avalanche: Turnagain aerial obs
04/27/24 Turnagain Observation: Johnson Pass
04/23/24 Turnagain Observation: Turnagain Sunny Side
04/21/24 Turnagain Observation: Bertha Creek
04/20/24 Turnagain Avalanche: Spokane Creek
04/16/24 Turnagain Observation: Cornbiscuit
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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.