Share your feedback! Share your feedback!

How’s our new website?
How can we better serve you?

Turnagain Pass Avalanche Forecast RSS

Archives
ARCHIVED FORECAST - All forecasts expire after 24 hours from the posting date/time.
Issued
Thu, February 15th, 2018 - 7:00AM
Expires
Fri, February 16th, 2018 - 7:00AM
Forecaster
Aleph Johnston-Bloom
The Bottom Line

The avalanche danger is  MODERATE  above 1,000′ on all aspects. Human triggered avalanches remain possible. Watch for shallow wind slabs on wind loaded slopes and cross-loaded gullies.  Additionally, weak layers deeper in the snowpack may still be triggered, creating a larger avalanche.  Evaluate snow and terrain carefully.

The danger is  LOW  below 1,000′ where triggering an avalanche is unlikely.

 

Thanks to our sponsors!
Thu, February 15th, 2018
Alpine
Above 2,500'
Moderate (2)
Avalanche risk
Treeline
1,000'-2,500'
Moderate (2)
Avalanche risk
Below Treeline
Below 1,000'
Low (1)
Avalanche risk
Alpine
Above 2,500'
Avalanche risk
Moderate (2)
Treeline
1,000'-2,500'
Avalanche risk
Moderate (2)
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
    Likely
    Possible
    Unlikely
    Likelihood
  • Historic
    Very Large
    Large
    Small
    Size
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

Triggering a large persistent slab avalanche up to 2′ or more in depth remains possible across the region today. Below the storm snow and recent wind crusts/slabs sits the Jan 21st buried surface hoar that we have been talking about for a few weeks. This layer is roughly 1-2′ below the surface. With the recent wind and snowfall adding stress, a person skiing or on a machine may tip the balance and initiate a larger slab avalanche. Triggering a smaller wind slab or a cornice fall may also activate this layer. The snowpack is now at a point where no signs of instability are likely to be present before one of these avalanches is triggered. Assessing the terrain and the potential outcome of an avalanche breaking deeper in the pack is key. Are there terrain traps below you? Cliffs? Are your partners watching and rescue ready? 

Snowpit near the Johnson Pass area that clearly shows the January 21st buried surface hoar. 

 Snowmachine triggered avalanche observed in the Johnson Pass area that likely occurred in the last week. 

Avalanche Problem 2
  • Wind Slabs
    Wind Slabs
  • Almost Certain
    Very Likely
    Likely
    Possible
    Unlikely
    Likelihood
  • Historic
    Very Large
    Large
    Small
    Size
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.

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

Monday night and Tuesday morning, North and West winds wreaked havoc on much of the terrain around Turnagain, Summit Lake, Portage and the Girdwood Valley. Wind scalloped many snow surfaces, scoured some ridgelines to the rocks and sastrugi was reported on Tincan. Along with the winds, no natural avalanche activity was seen in the Turnagain area, but the Summit Lake region saw several shallow natural wind slab avalanches along with one on Fresno that appeared to step down into an older weak layer. Watch for wind slabs lurking intermixed with the variable surface conditions on the steeper slopes. Pay attention to where the snow feels stiff, looks pillowed, sounds or feels hollow and watch for shooting cracks.  Hard wind slabs tend to break when you are out onto the slope and often fracture above you. Be aware of wind loading patterns in the terrain, especially cross-loaded gullies. 

Wind effect and a wind slab on Maynard Mountain in Portage observed Tuesday. 

Additional Concern
  • Deep Persistent Slabs
    Deep Persistent Slabs
Deep Persistent Slabs
Deep Persistent Slab avalanches are the release of a thick cohesive layer of hard snow (a slab), when the bond breaks between the slab and an underlying persistent weak layer deep in the snowpack. The most common persistent weak layers involved in deep, persistent slabs are depth hoar or facets surrounding a deeply buried crust. Deep Persistent Slabs are typically hard to trigger, are very destructive and dangerous due to the large mass of snow involved, and can persist for months once developed. They are often triggered from areas where the snow is shallow and weak, and are particularly difficult to forecast for and manage.
More info at Avalanche.org

Above 3,000′ in the Alpine zones, several old weak layers of facets and buried surface hoar sit near the ground and in the mid-pack. This structure is most pronounced in areas with a thin overall snow cover, such as the South end of Turnagain Pass and the Summit Lake area.  As you plan your day, keep in mind that there are deeper persistent layers that could ‘wake up’ if you find the wrong spot.

Weather
Thu, February 15th, 2018

Yesterday was partly cloudy with very light evening snow showers in Girdwood. Temperatures were in the 20Fs and winds were easterly 5-15 mph with a few gusts into the 20s and 30s. Overnight temperatures were in the low 20Fs.  

Today will be mostly sunny with temperatures in the low to mid 20Fs. There may be some valley fog. Winds will be northerly 5-15 mph with gusts into the 20s. Temperatures will drop into the teens overnight and skies will become partly cloudy.  

Tomorrow will be partly to mostly cloudy. It is forecast to clear again for Saturday and then cloud up again Sunday. There is uncertainty about what next week will bring with either high pressure or a chance for snow in the forecast!

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

  Temp Avg (F) Snow (in) Water (in) Snow Depth (in)
Center Ridge (1880′) 32   0   0    64
Summit Lake (1400′) 25    0      0      25
Alyeska Mid (1700′)  28      trace 0.02    59

RIDGETOP 24-hour data (6am – 6am)

  Temp Avg (F) Wind Dir Wind Avg (mph) Wind Gust (mph)
Sunburst (3812′) 22    E   5    23
Seattle Ridge (2400′) 24   SE    8       32  
Observations
Recent Observations for Turnagain Pass
Date Region Location
05/06/20 Turnagain Avalanche: Pastoral Peak, north face
04/10/20 Turnagain Avalanche: Wolverine
04/10/20 Turnagain Observation: Eddies lookers right shoulder
04/09/20 Turnagain Observation: Bench Peak
04/04/20 Turnagain Observation: Tincan
04/04/20 Turnagain Observation: Pete’s North
03/26/20 Turnagain Avalanche: Tincan – Proper (SW facing)
03/26/20 Turnagain Avalanche: Seattle Ridge
03/25/20 Turnagain Avalanche: Sunburst Uptrack @ 2000′
03/24/20 Turnagain Observation: Turnagain – Road Observations
Riding Areas
Updated Fri, May 01st, 2020

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
Closed
Placer River
Closed
Skookum Drainage
Closed
Turnagain Pass
Closed
Closed as of May 1. Thanks for a fun, safe season!
Twentymile
Closed
Seward District
Carter Lake
Closed
Lost Lake Trail
Closed
Primrose Trail
Closed
Resurrection Pass Trail
Closed
Snug Harbor
Closed
South Fork Snow River Corridor
Closed
Summit Lake
Closed

Subscribe to Turnagain Pass
Avalanche Forecast by Email

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.