Turnagain Pass Avalanche Forecast RSS

ARCHIVED FORECAST - All forecasts expire after 24 hours from the posting date/time.
Sat, February 3rd, 2018 - 7:00AM
Sun, February 4th, 2018 - 7:00AM
Heather Thamm
Avalanche risk The Bottom Line

A generally LOW avalanche danger exists in the mountains surrounding Turnagain Pass. Although triggering an avalanche large enough to bury a person is unlikely, isolated slabs 1-2′ deep can still be found in very steep or wind loaded terrain. LOW danger does not mean No Danger and evaluating the consequences of the terrain will be important before committing to a slope. Additionally watch for cornices or triggering loose surface snow that can be fast moving and knock a person over.  

In the periphery zones of Girdwood to Portage Valley, and Johnson Pass more caution is advised where a slab could be larger and more connected.  

Check out the Summit Lake Summary HERE.  

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Sat, February 3rd, 2018
Above 2,500'
Low (1)
Avalanche risk
Low (1)
Avalanche risk
Below Treeline
Below 1,000'
Low (1)
Avalanche risk
Above 2,500'
Avalanche risk
Low (1)
Avalanche risk
Low (1)
Below Treeline
Below 1,000'
Avalanche risk
Low (1)
Danger Scale:
No Rating (0)
Low (1)
Moderate (2)
Considerable (3)
High (4)
Extreme (5)
Avalanche Problem 1
  • Persistent Slabs
    Persistent Slabs
  • Almost Certain
    Very Likely
  • Historic
    Very Large
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.

Likelihood of Avalanches
Terms such as "unlikely", "likely", and "certain" are used to define the scale, with the chance of triggering or observing avalanches increasing as we move up the scale. For our purposes, "Unlikely" means that few avalanches could be triggered in avalanche terrain and natural avalanches are not expected. "Certain" means that humans will be able to trigger avalanches on many slopes, and natural avalanches are expected.

Size of Avalanches
Avalanche size is defined by the largest potential avalanche, or expected range of sizes related to the problem in question. Assigned size is a qualitative estimate based on the destructive classification system and requires specialists to estimate the harm avalanches may cause to hypothetical objects located in the avalanche track (AAA 2016, CAA 2014). Under this schema, "Small" avalanches are not large enough to bury humans and are relatively harmless unless they carry people over cliffs or through trees or rocks. Moving up the scale, avalanches become "Large" enough to bury, injure, or kill people. "Very Large" avalanches may bury or destroy vehicles or houses, and "Historic" avalanches are massive events capable of altering the landscape.

Signal Word Size (D scale) Simple Descriptor
Small 1 Unlikely to bury a person
Large 2 Can bury a person
Very Large 3 Can destroy a house
Historic 4 & 5 Can destroy part or all of a village
More info at Avalanche.org

We like to think of the danger scale on a continuum and we have inched our way towards LOW in Turnagain Pass. Slope testers (skiers and riders) have been in full force over the last week pushing further into the mountains. There have been a handful of slabs triggered without incident this week and it’s not impossible to find unstable snow. Keep the following problems in mind as you travel today. 

Persistent Slab: These slabs have been in places where the snow has been stiffed by wind and are failing on buried surface hoar about 1-2’ deep. Most of the activity has been relatively small, but big enough to take someone for an undesirable ride over a cliff or sweep them into a terrain trap. These slabs could be either soft or supportable to the weight a person and will be located on slopes that are more wind loaded. In fact they may resemble a windslab-type look: smooth pillow-shaped and isolated to a specific terrain feature. In the periphery areas of Girdwood, Placer Valley and Johnson Pass more caution is advised due to slightly deeper snow depths, more sustained winds, and the possibility of a larger slab. Identify terrain traps like gullies, cliffs or rocks below before committing to a steep slope.  

 *Triggering a Deep Persistent Slab is unlikely at this time and has become an outlier.  Due to poor structure (basal facets) that can still be found near the ground in the upper reaches of our terrain, 3000’ – 5000’ zone, it is worth keeping in the back of your mind. At this time cold temperatures and benign weather are helping the stability of our snowpack. 

Loose Snow: In many places the snow is too loose to form a slab and the surface snow ’sluffs’ away with the weight of a person. Expect loose dry snow to be fast moving in steep terrain and don’t be surprised if it knocks you over as it picks up speed. Manage your ‘sluff’ and be aware of the consequences below you.

Cornices: Cornices are unpredictable and can break further back along a ridge than expected. Give these features plenty of space. 

Soft slab triggered remotely on Wednesday along the upper ridge of Eddies. This slab was about 80′ wide and slid into very steep Southwest facing terrain below. Photo by George Creighton


This is an older wind slab on Raggedtop, Girdwood, and is a good example of where a slab could be more supportable due to stronger winds. Photo by Mike Ausman


Loose surface snow and cornices on the Southwest face of Magnum. 


Sat, February 3rd, 2018

Yesterday skies were clear and sunny with a temperature inversion, single digits (F) in valley bottoms and low teens (F) near ridge tops. Ridge top winds averaged around 10 mph with some gusts in the 20’s. No precipitation has occurred in over a week.  

Winds are expected to be light from the East (5-15mph) and skies will be clear and sunny. Temperatures look similar to yesterday with slightly warmer ridge top temps, low 20F’s and precipitation is not likely.    

A blocking high pressure system over mainland Alaska is expected to persist through the weekend with continued clear skies, cold temperatures and light winds. The long term forecast is calling for similar weather this week with a possibility of a pattern change mid to late week, but a lot of uncertainty still remains.  

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

  Temp Avg (F) Snow (in) Water (in) Snow Depth (in)
Center Ridge (1880′) 17   0   0   63  
Summit Lake (1400′) -1   0   0   17
Alyeska Mid (1700′) 16   0   0   50  

RIDGETOP 24-hour data (6am – 6am)

  Temp Avg (F) Wind Dir Wind Avg (mph) Wind Gust (mph)
Sunburst (3812′) 14   ENE   7   23  
Seattle Ridge (2400′) 16   SE   10   25  
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Riding Areas
Updated Thu, April 01st, 2021

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: mailroom_r10_chugach@fs.fed.us

Area Status Weather & Riding Conditions
Glacier District
Johnson Pass
No parking in turnaround at end of the road near the outhouse.
Placer River
Please do not ride along Railroad tracks. Cross tracks at 90 degree angle and clear the right of way.
Skookum Drainage
The Skookum Valley is closed to snowmachines. This closure occurs annually on April 1 as per the CNF Forest Plan.
Turnagain Pass
Please do not ride along Railroad tracks. Cross tracks at 90 degree angle and clear the right of way.
Seward District
Carter Lake
Lost Lake Trail
Primrose Trail
Resurrection Pass Trail
Closed for the 2020/21 winter season.
Snug Harbor
South Fork Snow River Corridor
Summit Lake

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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.