Observation: Turnagain

Location: Turnagain Pass - Sea Level

Route & General Observations

Anchorage Nordic/Backcountry Ski Patrol planned to travel from the Center Ridge Parking lot to approximately Tincan mid-mountain and evaluate how the new storm snow was bonding with the existing snowpack. Specifically, were interesting in 1) how wet the new snow was, 2) if the pre-storm surface hoar was likely to create a weak layer lingering under the new snow, and 3) distribution and sensitivity of developing wind slabs were. Unfortunately, none of the parking lots were plowed as of about 11:00. Nearly every vehicle that ventured into the motorized and Center Ridge lots were surrounded by teams of shovelers trying to correct their decision. We decided not to add to the chaos. Rather than heading home, we opted to for a fun training day practicing small group rescue techniques and refreshing our snow pit skills. We toured from sea level up the powerline to about 300′ elevation and hung out in rain/snow line for a little type-2 fun.

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

Rapid warming and heavy wet upside-down storm snow.

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

Temperatures in the low to mid-30s. Alternating between heavy wet snow and rain from 11:00 am to 2:30 pm. Switched to 100% rain at approximately 2:30.

Snow surface

Wet saturated snow. Ski penetration about one foot. Boot penetration was... deep and slushy.


No formal tests were conducted. We dug a practice pit on a short 30-degree NW rollover. Total snowpack varied between 130-170 cm. Thanksgiving crust was obvious at about 30 cm above ground level. A secondary melt/freeze crust was noted in the upper snowpack just below the new storm snow. Current storm had produced approximately 12"-14" of upside-down wet snow. The snow surface was 8"-10" of heavy rain-saturated snow on top of 4"-6" of lighter density snow. Buried surface hoar was not evident at this location.