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Fri, December 23rd, 2011 - 7:00AM
Sat, December 24th, 2011 - 7:00AM
Kevin Wright
Avalanche risk The Bottom Line

Good morning. This is Kevin Wright with the Chugach National Forest Avalanche Information Center on Friday, December 23rd at 7am. This will serve as 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).


The avalanche danger is MODERATE for wind slabs, and cornices. Areas below treeline will have a LOW danger rating. Yesterday’s snowfall was fairly insignificant in the bigger picture, but may have built some isolated small avalanche problems. Overall we are feeling pretty good about the snowpack right now with no noteworthy weak layers, a strong snowpack, and few reported problems.


No news is good news in the backcountry. Since our last major snowfall on Tuesday we’ve gotten very few reports from the public or CNFAIC Staff forecasters. That storm dropped more snow in the Southern Kenai peninsula than Turnagain Arm. There were a couple reports of natural avalanche activity from Summit to Moose Pass on Tuesday.

Yesterday we got 3-5 inches of new snow with only moderate wind into the 30s. Temperatures stayed cold, in the 20s at sea level and in the teens or lower at the ridgetops. This new snow will have limited influence on increased avalanche danger except in those areas where it blew into deeper pockets.

Our snowpack is deep and strong with no specific reactive weaknesses. The new storm interfaces have shown they need some time to bond, but a couple days of sitting finds the layers sticking together nicely. All the warm and deep snow gives us snowpits that are boring to evaluate, which is good if you want safe backcountry conditions.

The general consensus is that the backcountry has limited avalanche danger today. Isolated problems may still be found, but will be confined to wind features near ridgetops such as tender cornices and wind slabs. If you do find unstable pockets the avalanche size will be small.


Turnagain Pass has seen about 30 inches of new snow in the last week. Most of that came from Sunday’s storm with lots of wind. Last night saw a few inches of cold snow with only moderate wind. Today a few snow showers in the morning could give way to clear breaks in the afternoon.

The stormy pattern is changing with colder air entering the state and the dominant storm track now sending the Lows into the Gulf rather than the Bering Sea. This sounds like a good setup for backcountry enthusiasts. Colder air will keep the precip in the solid form, and storms tracking into the Gulf of Alaska gives a high chance of snow for the Kenai and Turnagain arm.

CNFAIC Weather Page and the NWS forecast

I will issue the next advisory Saturday morning. If you get out in the backcountry we want to know what you are seeing. Please send us your observations using the button at the top of this page or give us a call at 754-2369. Thanks and have a great day.

Fri, December 23rd, 2011
Above 2,500'
2 - Moderate
Avalanche risk
2 - Moderate
Avalanche risk
Below Treeline
Below 1,000'
2 - Moderate
Avalanche risk
0 - No Rating
1 - Low
2 - Moderate
3 - Considerable
4 - High
5 - Extreme
Avalanche risk Avalanche risk Avalanche risk Avalanche risk Avalanche risk
Travel Advice Generally safe avalanche conditions. Watch for unstable snow on isolated terrain features. Heightened avalanche conditions on specific terrain features. Evaluate snow and terrain carefully; identify features of concern. Dangerous avalanche conditions. Dangerous avalanche conditions. Very dangerous avalanche conditions. Travel in avalanche terrain not recommended. Extraordinarily dangerous avalanche conditions. Avoid all avalanche terrain.
Likelihood of Avalanches Natural and human-triggered avalanches unlikely. Natural avalanches unlikely; human-triggered avalanches possible. Natural avalanches possible; human-triggered avalanches likely. Natural avalanches likely; human-triggered avalanches very likely. Natural and human-triggered avalanches certain.
Avalanche Size and Distribution Small avalanches in isolated areas or extreme terrain. Small avalanches in specific areas; or large avalanches in isolated areas. Small avalanches in many areas; or large avalanches in specific areas; or very large avalanches in isolated areas. Large avalanches in many areas; or very large avalanches in specific areas. Very large avalanches in many areas.
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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.