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Sun, January 22nd, 2017 - 7:00AM
Mon, January 23rd, 2017 - 7:00AM
Wendy Wagner
Avalanche risk The Bottom Line

There is a MODERATE avalanche danger in the mountains surrounding Turnagain Pass for a variety of avalanche concerns. First, wind slab avalanches around 1 foot thick will be possible to trigger above treeline on slopes that were loaded by winds yesterday and the day before. Second, on the steeper terrain that has seen little wind effect,  expect to trigger sluffs that could be high volume and run far. Lastly, in the lower elevations (below 2,000′, such as the Placer Valley area), watch for soft slab avalanches 12-18″ thick that could release on a layer of buried surface hoar.

Wherever you choose to chase the fresh snow today, remember safe travel practices can make the difference between a good vs. a bad outcome if someone is caught in a slide. These are, expose one person at a time, group up in safe zones, have an escape route planned and watch your partners!

Summit Lake:  Higher snowfall amounts fell on a generally weaker snowpack.  Please check out the Saturday Summit Summary  HERE.  

Special Announcements
  • Dangerous avalanche conditions exist in Hatcher Pass. Click  HERE  for the Hatcher Pass Avalanche Center advisory and  HERE  for recent snowpack observations.

Thanks to everyone that attened the first Avalanche Rescue Workshop at Turnagain Pass yesterday! Our next workshop will be Saturday, February 11th – mark you calendars and come refresh your rescue skills!!

Sun, January 22nd, 2017
Above 2,500'
2 - Moderate
Avalanche risk
2 - Moderate
Avalanche risk
Below Treeline
Below 1,000'
2 - Moderate
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
  • 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’s impressive snowfall event not only made the news, but also caused a bit of havoc on the Southern Kenai. Here is a rundown of the snowfall numbers around the region – including many areas outside our forecast zone:

Storm Totals: (estimates based on manual reports and station data)

Crown Point (7 miles South of Moose Pass):  40-52″ !!
Moose Pass:  28-32″
Seward:  24-30″
Hatcher Pass:  14-17″
Summit Lake:  12-16″
Anchorage: 10-14″
Girdwood Valley:  6-8″
Turnagain Pass:  6-8″

Another 1-3″ is expected in favored areas today. All this snow is very low density and fallen with relatively little wind. As you can see, our forecast zone (mountains around Girdwood and Turnagain Pass) were the losers in the event and avalanche danger remains at MODERATE for slab avalanches and sluffs. A party skiing the Cornbiscuit area triggered several shallow slab avalanches yesterday as well as high volume sluffs. Check out their report on the link.

If skies clear enough for travel to the upper elevation slopes, keep a lookout for where the winds drifted snow during the storm. Triggering a wind slab on the steeper slopes is possible, these are likely to be on the shallow side, 8-12″ thick, and could break well below the ridgeline as was the case with the folks on Cornbiscuit yesterday. Feel for hollow feeling snow, stiffer snow over softer snow and cracks that shoot out from your snowmachine, skis or board. 


Avalanche Problem 2
  • Dry Loose
    Dry Loose
Dry Loose
Dry Loose avalanches are the release of dry unconsolidated snow and typically occur within layers of soft snow near the surface of the snowpack. These avalanches start at a point and entrain snow as they move downhill, forming a fan-shaped avalanche. Other names for loose-dry avalanches include point-release avalanches or sluffs.
More info at Avalanche.org

There is a significant amount of loose snow from not only yesterday’s storm but the snowfall earlier in the week. Expect sluffs to be triggered on slopes approaching 40 degrees. These are likely to be high volume and run fast and far. Sluff management will be key.

Additional Concern
  • 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

At the lower elevations, below 2,000′, a layer of buried surface hoar exists under the last two snowfall events (12-18″ below the surface). Slab avalanches failing on this layer are possible where the snow on top is stiff enough to form a slab. In most locations, the snow is too loose and therefore triggering a slab in unlikely, but it seems the party on Cornbiscuit may have found one of these lower slopes that did indeed have enough of a slab on this suspected buried surface hoar. The lower terrain in Placer Valley is a prime suspect for this set up.

Photo: Buried Surface Hoar 18″ below the surface – seen as a thin grey line. This was at 1,700′ on the Southern end of Turnagain Pass – Pete’s North (Galoob and Haffener).


At the upper elevations, there are a variety of weak layers in the middle of the pack as well as the base of the pack. These are more pronounced in the Girdwood Valley and the Southern end of the Pass where the snowpack is thinner. Although, we have not seen avalanche activity break in these older weak layers, it is good to keep this in mind if venturing into the less traveled zones.

Sun, January 22nd, 2017

Yesterday’s snow storm, as mentioned above, brought very different snow amounts to the region. Snowfall tapered off at most locations during the day and skies have mostly cleared overnight. Ridgetop winds associated with the snow were 15-20mph from the East and have backed off to 5-10mph overnight from the East. Temperatures have been in the teens at all elevations during the past 24-hours.

Today, instability snow showers are expected to add 1-3″ in favored areas. This means, opening skies in some areas and cloudy with light snowfall in others. Ridgetop winds should be light from the South and East, 5-10mph and temperatures continue to sit in the 10-15F range at all elevations.

For tomorrow, there is a break between storms as a large low-pressure system heads our way. This storm should reach us sometime late Monday or Tuesday. Stay tuned!

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

  Temp Avg (F) Snow (in) Water (in) Snow Depth (in)
Center Ridge (1880′) 13   4   0.3 45  
Summit Lake (1400′) 11   6    0.4 27  
Alyeska Mid (1700′) 11   4   0.2   42  

RIDGETOP 24-hour data (6am – 6am)

  Temp Avg (F) Wind Dir Wind Avg (mph) Wind Gust (mph)
Sunburst (3812′) 16   E   8   27  
Seattle Ridge (2400′) 14   E   7   25  
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.