Turnagain Pass Avalanche Forecast RSS

ARCHIVED FORECAST - All forecasts expire after 24 hours from the posting date/time.
Sun, December 9th, 2018 - 7:00AM
Mon, December 10th, 2018 - 7:00AM
Wendy Wagner
Avalanche risk The Bottom Line

The avalanche danger is  CONSIDERABLE  for elevations above 1,000′.  Several feet of new snow fell over two days at the mid and upper elevations overloading the snowpack. Human triggered slab avalanches may be likely and will increase in likelihood with elevation. We are in the window of the first 24 hours after a significant storm, which means cautious routefinding and conservative decision-making are essential.  

PORTAGE and GIRDWOOD:    Up to 6′ of snow has fallen in Portage Valley and 3′ in the upper Girdwood Valley. Avalanche danger is highest in these zones that saw the heaviest snowfall yesterday.    

SUMMIT LAKE:    A  very weak and  shallow snowpack exists  under the storm snow. Slab avalanches 1+’ deep are expected to be easy to trigger on the steeper slopes.

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Sun, December 9th, 2018
Above 2,500'
Considerable (3)
Avalanche risk
Considerable (3)
Avalanche risk
Below Treeline
Below 1,000'
Low (1)
Avalanche risk
Above 2,500'
Avalanche risk
Considerable (3)
Avalanche risk
Considerable (3)
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
  • Storm Slabs
    Storm Slabs
  • Almost Certain
    Very Likely
  • Historic
    Very Large
Storm Slabs
Storm Slab avalanches are the release of a cohesive layer (a slab) of new snow that breaks within new snow or on the old snow surface. Storm-slabs typically last between a few hours and few days (following snowfall). Storm-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

After two days of stormy weather, a break has arrived along with cooler temperatures. Today’s partly cloudy skies should allow for easier travel above treeline and with that, the chance a person could trigger a large avalanche if venturing into avalanche terrain. Depending on location, between 1 and 6 feet of new snow has fallen in the mountains – this is good news for many, but remember, it’s been less than 24-hours since the storm ended.

Storm snow avalanches, such as wind slabs along ridgelines, storm slabs in the sheltered zones, cornice falls and loose snow sluffs should all be viewed as likely today. It’s a day to carefully evaluate terrain and consequences if an avalanche does release. We need to give the mountains time to adjust. Low angle slopes without steep slopes above are great ways to enjoy the new snow without worry. 

Red flags to watch for:
–  Recent avalanches, from today or was there avalanche activity from during the storm?
–  Whumpfing (collapsing) of the snowpack, sure sign to avoid avalanche terrain period.
–  Shooting cracks, likely to be seen near ridgelines where the wind has formed wind slabs.

Storm totals (beginning Thursday night through 6am Sunday morning)

  • Turnagain Pass at 1,880′:  1.7 – 2.2″ of water equivalent, roughly 1.5-2′ of snow above treeline
  • Girdwood Valley at 1,700′:  3.5″ of water equivalent, roughly 2.5-3.5′ above treeline
  • Portage Valley at sea level: ~6″ of water equivalent, roughly 6′ of snow above treeline
  • Summit Lake at 1,400′: 0.8″ of water equivalent, roughly 6-8″ of snow above treeline

The good news is the new snow should bond relatively quickly. From what we know, the pre-existing snow surface lacked any persistent type of snow grain and was mainly old wind slab and settled powder. As always however, the snowpack is guilty until proven innocent and there are always surprises out there – it’s the first day after a storm and we can’t get caught being over confident.

Above 2,500′ there is a thin layer of buried surface hoar anywhere from 2-5′ deep in the snowpack. This layer was buried on Nov 23rd and we are keeping track of it. This storm may have brought it back to life in places – meaning the rapid loading of new snow may have overloaded the layer causing it to collapse and initiate large avalanches. However, that has yet to be determined and something we are focused on. That said, keeping this layer in mind and although the new snow may be bonding well, there is a deeper potential weak layer lurking. 

Turnagain Pass motorized parking lot at 3:30pm yesterday (Saturday). Low visizibility and a few inches of slush at the road.

Sun, December 9th, 2018

Yesterday:   Heavy rain was seen in the Portage and Girdwood Valleys dropping almost an inch of water before turning to snow in the evening (6-10″ snow above treeline). Areas to the south of the Arm, Turnagain Pass and Summit Lake, were in the drier air and saw a rain/snow mix along the road with only .2″ of water (1-3″ snow above treeline). Winds were moderate out of the East, averaging around 10 mph with gusts into the 30’s. Temperatures were in the mid 20’s along the ridgetops and lower 30’s at 1,000′.  

Today:   Partly cloudy skies with valley fog is expected today. Ridgetop winds will be in the 5-10mph from the east along ridgetops before picking up to the 30’s tonight ahead of another storm front moving in. Precipitation will also begin again tonight with 3-4″ of snow falling to sea level (yay!) by Monday morning. Temperatures should remain cool, near 32F at sea level and 20F along ridgetops.  

Tomorrow:   Light snowfall should continue through Monday with another 2-3″ accumulating. Models are showing temperatures rise slightly allowing the rain/snow line to creep near 500′. An active weather pattern should continue through the week with a chance for snow to accumulate along Turnagain Pass.

*Seattle Ridge anemometer (wind sensor) is rimed over and not reporting.  

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

  Temp Avg (F) Snow (in) Water (in) Snow Depth (in)
Center Ridge (1880′) 31   2   0.2    29
Summit Lake (1400′) 30   1   0.1   4  
Alyeska Mid (1700′) 30   3   0.83   5  

RIDGETOP 24-hour data (6am – 6am)

  Temp Avg (F) Wind Dir Wind Avg (mph) Wind Gust (mph)
Sunburst (3812′) 24   NE   11  33
Seattle Ridge (2400′) 29   *no data   *no data   *no data  
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Riding Areas
Updated Tue, April 20th, 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
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.