Yesterday the weak facets near the base of the snowpack showed their teeth and two snowmachiners had very close calls. On the Seattle Creek Headwall a slope (that had been previously high marked and skied) was triggered just as the as snowmachiner that climbed it turned to travel back down. The rider tried to pull his airbag but was unsuccessful and was completely buried except for a hand sticking out. He was quickly rescued by his party but his sled was not located. In Lynx Creek a snowmachiner triggered a slope just after he crested the hill but was not caught. Snowmachiners in both locations remarked that there were no signs that the snowpack was unstable and in both cases there was already tracks on the slope. Many other skiers and riders enjoyed the mountains yesterday without incident. All these factors are characteristic of deep persistent slab, low probability of triggering but high consequences if you do find the wrong spot. The slab in Seattle Creek was reported to be 4-6′ deep and the avalanche in Lynx 1-3′ deep. This type of avalanche is often triggered in a thin part of the slab, near rocks or on the edge of the slab. These can also be triggered by multiple skiers/boarders and/or snowmachines on, near or under slopes. It may be the 3rd or 10th or 25th track that tips the balance. Observers have found weak faceted snow at the base of the snowpack across the area from Seward to Girdwood. However, another tricky part of the equation is that although this set-up is fairly widespread it is also variable making some slopes safe to ride and others very dangerous. The take away from the avalanches yesterday is that weak snow with a deep slab on top is poor snowpack structure and may remain suspect for days to come. Temperatures above freezing in the Alpine and direct sunshine may also make these slabs more easy to initiate. All of this has to be a factor in decision making this weekend. Remember signs of instability are not always present and slabs may break once you are well out onto them. As always practice safe travel protocols, be aware of other parties in the area, choose terrain wisely, carry rescue equipment and don’t let the sunshine cloud your judgment.
Seattle Creek avalanche. Photos: Chad Aurentz
Lynx Creek avalanche. Photos: Mark Guess
Snowpack near the Lynx Creek avalanche shows hard snow over soft weak snow near the ground. Photo: Travis Rupp
In addition to deep persistent slab avalanches there are a few other avalanche concerns to pay attention to today. All of these concerns could be a hazard seperately or once initiated, trigger a larger persistent slab deeper in the snowpack. Warm temperatures and direct sunlight may also play a factor in all of these concerns. We have reached the time of year. The sun is out and affecting the snow in terrain on the Southern half of the compass. A small crust was observed forming on Thurday on steep southerly slopes. Pay attention to changing conditions!
Wind Slabs: Old stubborn wind slabs may be triggered on leeward slopes. Looked for pillowed or drifted snow, listened for hollow sounds and avoid areas with stiff snow over soft snow. Warming temperatures and direct sunlight may make these slabs easier to trigger.
Loose snow: With 4-8″ of loose snow on the surface over a dense base, watch your sluffs and watch how the sun is affecting the snow around you. These may pack enough punch to push you somewhere you don’t want to go i.e. a terrain trap.
Cornices: Give cornices wide berth, avoid travel on slopes below them and remember they can break farther back onto the ridge than expected. If cornices do break and fall they could trigger an avalanche on the slope below.
Yesterday was warm in the Alpine with temperatures reaching the 40Fs on some weather stations. Skies were clear and winds were light and variable. Valley fog moved out in the mid morning. Overnight the inversion kept temperatures cold in the valley bottoms with some areas seeing teens and single digits. Temperatures in stayed above freezing at higher elevations.
Today will be warm, temperatures are already in the 40s in the Alpine. Skies will be mostly clear and winds will be calm. The weather looks to be similar into early next week as a “high latitude blocking pattern remains firmly entrenched over mainland Alaska.” Cooler temperatures and a chance for precipitation are a possibility by mid week! Stay tuned.
|Temp Avg (F)||Snow (in)||Water (in)||Snow Depth (in)|
|Center Ridge (1880′)||25||0||0||54|
|Summit Lake (1400′)||14||0||0||23|
|Alyeska Mid (1700′)||23||0||0||48|
|Temp Avg (F)||Wind Dir||Wind Avg (mph)||Wind Gust (mph)|
|Seattle Ridge (2400′)||31||variable||3||7|
|01/16/21||Turnagain||Avalanche: Tincan Trees||A Schauer Forecaster|
|01/15/21||Turnagain||Observation: Sunburst||Schauer/ Wunnicke Forecaster|
|01/13/21||Turnagain||Observation: Tincan||Johnston-Bloom / Moderow Forecaster|
|01/13/21||Turnagain||Observation: Center Ridge Meadows||Alaska Avalanche School Rec Level 1 Roberts|
|01/12/21||Turnagain||Avalanche: Seattle Ridge/Center Ridge||A Schauer Forecaster|
|01/11/21||Turnagain||Observation: Tincan Trees||Schauer/ Roberts Forecaster|
|01/10/21||Turnagain||Observation: Center Ridge Meadows||Alaska Avalanche School Pro 1 Course Latosuo|
|01/10/21||Turnagain||Avalanche: Tincan trees||Anonymous|
|01/09/21||Turnagain||Observation: Johnson Pass||Anonymous|
|01/08/21||Turnagain||Observation: Sunburst meadow between Hemlocks||Anonymous|
Status of riding areas across the Chugach NF is managed by the Glacier and Seward Ranger Districts, not avalanche center staff. Riding area information is posted as a public service to our users and updated based on snow depth and snow density to prevent resource damage at trailhead locations. Riding area questions contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
|Area||Status||Weather & Riding Conditions|
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.