Observation: Turnagain

Location: Taylor Pass

Route & General Observations

We toured up Taylor Pass to the Sunburst weather station. We were seeking more info on the 3/5 storm snow interface that was so reactive for the second half of this week. We dug pits at 1800′, 2700′, and 3700′, and the main concern for today was loose snow avalanches at the surface. The 3/5 interface seems to have stabilized for now but the active weather expected over the next few days will be a concern as we load that weak layer and bury the current weak surfaces.

Red Flags
Red flags are simple visual clues that are a sign of potential avalanche danger. Please record any sign of red flags below.
Observer Comments

Lots of activity from after the 3/5 storm, but the only current activity we saw was a lot of sluffing. Natural loose snow avalanches on solar aspects below rocks, skier-triggered sluffs on all aspects.

Weather & Snow Characteristics
Please provide details to help us determine the weather and snowpack during the time this observation took place.

We were happy to take advantage of another surprisingly sunny day. Winds were calm and temperatures remained cold enough to keep surfaces dry.

Snow surface

Surface hoar parking lot to ridgetop. There was a breakable crust on east, south, and west aspects up to around 1600-1800'. That crust stuck around on southerly slopes up to higher elevations- we heard from other folks that the southerly slopes on the front side of Sunburst were challenging. However, at higher elevations the solar aspects were surprisingly soft still. The steepest southerly slopes did have a thin crust up to the ridgeline at 3800', but most slopes were still in good shape. 4-6" soft, dry snow on firmer surfaces.


The upper snowpack above 2000' or so did not have any concerns for today. BUT the current surfaces are a mix of crusts, dry faceted powder, and surface hoar. This is not ideal as another round of snow and wind approaches, and the fairly benign conditions from today will probably change quickly once the current surfaces get buried.

We were surprised by what we found in our low-elevation snowpit. We found a thick layer of fist-hard 2mm facets (translation: very weak snow) buried about a foot deep right under the President's Day crust. It is a challenge to piece together when this layer formed, but our best guess was it was the January facet layer in an area that had seen wind scouring at some point in early February. Regardless of the timing, this was really poor structure. Luckilly this doesn't appear to be the norm at Turnagain Pass, but it's something we'll be keeping a close eye on for the future.

See attached photos for more detailed snowpack info.

Photos & Video
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