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Sun, March 11th, 2012 - 7:00AM
Mon, March 12th, 2012 - 7:00AM
Wendy Wagner
Avalanche risk The Bottom Line

Good morning. This is Wendy Wagner with the Chugach National Forest Avalanche Information Center on Sunday, March 11th 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).


We continue to have a LOW avalanche danger in the core Turnagain Pass zone. Small loose snow sluffs in steep and complicated terrain remain the most likely avalanche to be triggered. Lurking stubborn wind slabs in the higher elevations should also be looked out for. Remember, LOW mean small avalanches are possible in isolated areas or extreme terrain.


Yesterday morning greeted folks in Turnagain Pass and the Girdwood Valley to a few inches of very light powder on top of our already nice skiing conditions. Several point release natural sluffs in this new snow were seen in steep rocky zones, more predominantly on the Girdwood side of Turnagain Arm. As far as human triggered avalanches, small sluffs are still being triggered in steep (40 degrees and steeper) terrain. With yesterday’s new few inches, sluffing was slightly more prevalent, especially on southerly aspects where a sun crust underneath helped sluffs run a bit further, but these continue to be shallow and pack little punch.

Loose Snow

Dry snow sluffing continues to be possible in steep terrain on all aspects – expect for scattered southerly slopes that formed a sun crust yesterday in the new snow. Any person steeping up their exposure into steep and complex terrain should expect to trigger this type of avalanche. Being aware of where your sluff will run, how big it is and having an escape route planned if it becomes unruly is prudent.

Wind Slab

We keep mentioning lingering wind slabs as a concern in steep isolated upper elevations. Winds have been generally light for nearly a week now, but that is only what the weather stations report. There are always areas that see more wind and it is these areas that need to be looked out for. Finding and triggered a wind slab is becoming harder to do but, there are always isolated areas where one may be lurking.

Surface conditions and snowpack

Though the avalanche danger is LOW now, we are riding and skiing on snow that may very well become a bona fide weak layer(s) once buried. What we have in general is recystalizing (faceting) snow on northerly aspects, this same faceting snow along with sun crusts on the south side and scattered surface hoar intermixed. Hence, our concerns mainly lie in the upper part of the pack. The deep and mid-pack continues to show a strong character. (see the photos/observations page for a few snow profiles from observers yesterday)


A new coat of paint covered most areas with several inches of very low density snow early yesterday morning – Girdwood Valley ~5″, Turnagain Pass ~3″ and Summit just a trace. Skies became mostly sunny and temperatures remained chilly, in the teens below treeline single digits above. Winds shifted to a northerly direction yesterday and bumped up a hair, blowing 5-10mph with gusts in the teens. Overnight temperatures have dropped slightly, clouds have moved back in, and a few flakes are falling in some areas.

The general cold northerly flow continues to bring chilly temperatures, light winds and snow flurries over our region. Expect temperatures to be slightly warmer today, near 20F below treeline and low teens above treeline. A chance for an inch of light snow is forecast and north winds should blow between 5 and 10mph. Skies look to remain mostly to party cloudy.

CNFAIC Weather Page and the NWS forecast

I will issue the next advisory Monday 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.

Sun, March 11th, 2012
Above 2,500'
1 - Low
Avalanche risk
1 - Low
Avalanche risk
Below Treeline
Below 1,000'
1 - Low
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.