Turnagain Area Avalanche Advisory
Sunday, January 6th 2013 6:55 am by Wendy Wagner
ARCHIVED ADVISORY - All advisories expire after 24 hours from the posting date/time.
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The Bottom Line

We continue to have dangerous avalanche conditions in the backcountry. The failure of weak snow near the base of the snowpack has resulted in large and destructive avalanches during the past week. Additionally, a few inches of new snow today with strong wind will create smaller but sensitive wind slabs on the surface. These two types of avalanche problems will keep the danger pegged at CONSIDERABLE. Human triggered avalanches are likely near and above treeline on slopes 35 degrees and steeper. Below treeline the danger is MODERATE where triggering a slide is possible. Expert level route finding and terrain management is required for a safe day in the mountains.

 Show the Complete North American Avalanche Danger Scale
3 Considerable Alpine / Above 2,500' Travel Advice: Dangerous avalanche conditions. Careful snowpack evaluation, cautious routefinding and conservative decision-making essential.
2 Moderate Treeline / 1,000'-2,500' Travel Advice: Heightened avalanche conditions on specific terrain features. Evaluate snow and terrain carefully; identify features of concern.
2 Moderate Below Treeline / Below 1,000' Travel Advice: Heightened avalanche conditions on specific terrain features. Evaluate snow and terrain carefully; identify features of concern.
Avalanche Problem 1

Once again our primary concern will be deep slab avalanches. This is simply due to the size and destructive power this type of avalanche can produce. As the weak faceted snow from October and November is getting deeper and deeper in the pack (4-10') it is easy to focus on what is going on at the surface - today that will be wind slabs. But we can’t forget that lurking below, where obvious signs of instability are minimal to none, there is a weak layer of snow that is struggling to hold the entire snowpack to the slopes. Triggering a deep slab is not something to get mixed up in and can have deadly consequences. The best practice is to use safe travel techniques and stick to lower angle terrain.

The cloudy skies and low visibility yesterday hampered a good look around the mountains and with no reported slides from others, there are no new avalanches to pass on. The most recent activity we know of is from 48 hours ago on Jan. 4th  where two large slides released naturally. The most significant for the Turnagain Pass folk is the class 3 slide on Seattle Ridge. These events should not be forgotten as the weak layer responsible is over a month old and slab is 2 weeks old, hence the persistence issue.

Remember, the only obvious clue as to a deep slab problem is the knowledge weak snow exists near the ground. All other signs of instability such as cracking and collapsing, including recent avalanches, is not a sign the problem has gone away. A guilty until proven innocent situation.

If you’re interested in a little deep slab reading, here is a good article from our friends in Colorado.

Avalanche Problem 2

Yesterday we found a few small pockets with shallow wind slabs (4-8” thick) at treeline. These were quite reactive to a person as they were in the formation stage and fresh. This should be the case again today with a few more inches of snow and wind that will load leeward slopes. Above treeline slabs will be larger (in the 1 foot or more range) and with the underlying weaknesses at the bottom of the pack, it would not be unexpected for a smaller wind slab to step down and trigger a much larger deep slab.

Mountain Weather

The progressive weather pattern we have been in for the past 2 weeks, that has brought us cloudy skies, snow and wind, continues. Yesterday we picked up around 3” of snow at mid elevations with rain below 800’. Winds blew in the 30’s with gusts to 50mph from the east. Remember we have weather history charts for those interested.

Today should be similar with an additional 2-4” of snow and rain up to 6-800’. Winds will remain strong out of the east averaging ~30mph with gusts to 50mph on the ridgetops. Temperatures are currently in the mid 20’s above treeline and mid 30’s below and should cool a degree or two through the day.

A larger system moves in this evening that looks to bring around a foot of new snow tonight into Monday with slightly cooler temperatures. A break in the weather Tuesday into Wednesday may bring a welcome shot of sunshine.


John will issue the next advisory on Monday, January 7th.

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).

Winter snowmachine use open/closed status and riding conditions updates

Riding status is not associated with avalanche danger. An area will be open to motorized use in accordance to the Forest Management Plan when snow coverage is adequate to protect underlying vegetation. Backcountry hazards including avalanche hazard are always present regardless of the open status of motorized use areas.

(Updated: Mar 22, 2019 )

Glacier District
Johnson Pass: Open
Placer River: ClosedClosed as of 3.20.19 due to lack of snow.
Skookum Drainage: ClosedPlacer access closed as of 3.20.19 due to lack of snow.
Turnagain Pass: Open
Twentymile: ClosedClosed as of 3.20.19 due to lack of snow.
Seward District
Carter Lake: Open
Lost Lake Trail: ClosedClosed as of 3/22. Unfortunately HEAVY rain over the past week has washed much of the snow off the lower stretches of this trail.
Primrose Trail: OpenPlease stay on trail to avoid resource damage through forested areas.
Resurrection Pass Trail: ClosedClosed for the 2018/19 season. Next season will be open to motorized use.
Snug Harbor: Open
South Fork Snow River Corridor: ClosedClosed as of 3.20.19 due to lack of snow.
Summit Lake: Open

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The information in this advisory is from the U.S. Forest Service, which is solely responsible for its content. This advisory describes general avalanche conditions and local variations always occur. This advisory provided by the Chugach National Forest, in partnership with Friends of the Chugach National Forest Avalanche Information Center.

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