After two weeks of rain and warm temperatures, a welcome cooler storm arrived Friday bringing 12 – 20″ of new snow across the region. The wet snowpack below 2,500-3,000′ is slowly freezing as it’s now capped by this new snow. No avalanche activity was seen or heard of yesterday, including any small avalanches relegated to the new snow. However, very few people have been in the mountains, save for the most popular areas.
Our main concern are deep persistent slab avalanches at the higher elevations in thin snowpack areas. This means avalanches breaking deep in the pack above 2,500′, and in our case in a weak layer of facets near the ground. We are uncertain as to the extent and likelihood of triggering a large slab, but until we gather more information we recommend following the travel advice for CONSIDERABLE avalanche danger, which includes careful snowpack evaluation and conservative decision-making. Snow pit results at 3,300′ on Tincan yesterday pointed to good stability and this is a good sign, but remember this is one pit in a place that received significant snow compressing the weak layers. Areas on the Southern end of the pass and extending toward Summit Lake received less snow and are suspect for harboring reactive facets near the ground. A thinner snowpack also means triggering is more likely.
Keep in mind that no Red Flags are likely to be seen with this avalanche problem. In order to assess the weak layer in a snow pit you must dig to the ground. This makes it more difficult to know how touchy this problem is. Any help from you is much appreciated! Please let us know if you hear any whumpfing or collapsing, if you dig to the ground let us know what you find. Last, mid-elevations, roughly below 2,500′ and even up to 3,000′ in places, saw enough rain that the pack is now freezing into thick crusts, limiting avalanche activity.
The snowpack is still thin in area South of Turnagain Pass, pictured below is the Seattle Creek headwall and Big Chief on the right. (photo Sam Galoob)
Anywhere from 12 – 20″ of new light snow from Friday’s storm sits on either a moist crust or dense snow. We found good bonding with the new and old snow interface yesterday. What we did find were stubborn wind slabs and storm slab potential as the storm snow had yet to completely bond. Today, watch for lingering wind slabs and areas where the storm snow feels stiffer over lighter. Quick hand pits and using your pole to cut small blocks are great ways to assess these ‘surface instabilities’ along your route. Look for blocks you cut to easily slide off and watch for cracks that shoot out from you. There is plenty low density snow that a little bit of wind and/or warming could form a slab.
New snow from Dec 16th showing signs of bonding and stabilizing.
Yesterday saw overcast skies with a few sunny holes poking through. There was no precipitation recorded during the past 24-hours, except for a trace in the Girdwood Valley late morning. Winds were light from the East with moderate gusts. Temperatures were mid 30’sF at sea level, 30F at 1,000′ and mid 20’sF along ridgetops.
Today, partly cloudy skies and cooler temperatures are expected with no precipitation. Ridgetop winds are forecast to shift Northerly today and remain light 5-10mph with stronger gusts. Temperatures are cooler in valleys this morning, 15-20F, as an inversion has set in while ridgetops are in the low to mid 20’sF. Expect valley temperatures to climb during the day and ridgetops continue cooling with cold air moving in from the North.
Monday, skies are forecast to finally clear and a sunny day is on tap, again with cooler temperatures and light winds. Tuesday another system heads in. This one looks to bring around 4-8″ of snow with the rain/snow ~1,000′. Stay tuned!
* Sunburst weather station is down due to loss of battery power.
|Temp Avg (F)||Snow (in)||Water (in)||Snow Depth (in)|
|Center Ridge (1880′)||27||0||0||33|
|Summit Lake (1400′)||21||0||0||11|
|Alyeska Mid (1700′)||28||trace||0.03||29|
|Temp Avg (F)||Wind Dir||Wind Avg (mph)||Wind Gust (mph)|
|Seattle Ridge (2400′)||24||SE||6||12|
Snowpack at the Motorized Parking Lot: 18″ totoal: bottom 8″ is wet snow beginning to freeze, top 10″ is new snow from Dec 15.
|12/10/19||Turnagain||Avalanche: Tincan and Sunburst from the air||CNFAIC Staff|
|12/10/19||Turnagain||Observation: Tincan||Nancy Pfeiffer|
|12/08/19||Turnagain||Avalanche: Tincan||Ryan Van Luit Forecaster|
|12/06/19||Turnagain||Avalanche: Sunburst||Billy Finley|
|12/04/19||Turnagain||Observation: Sunburst||A.Johnston-Bloom/ W.Wagner/ R.Van Luit Forecaster|
|12/03/19||Turnagain||Observation: Hippy Bowl||Nick Langowski|
|12/01/19||Turnagain||Observation: Tincan, All elevations||Eric Roberts|
|12/01/19||Turnagain||Observation: Tincan||Andy Moderow|
|11/30/19||Turnagain||Observation: Tincan Treeline Plateau/ Common Bowl/ Ridge||Eric Roberts|
|11/29/19||Turnagain||Observation: Sunburst Ob #2||Aleph Johnston-Bloom Forecaster|
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: email@example.com
|Area||Status||Weather & Riding Conditions|
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