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Wed, November 14th, 2012 - 7:00AM
Thu, November 15th, 2012 - 7:00AM
Wendy Wagner
Avalanche risk The Bottom Line

Due to early season conditions, for both the snowpack and our operations, we will be issuing intermittent snow and avalanche updates until November 17th, as conditions dictate.


Despite minimal snow cover and only 3-5″ of new snow today (Wednesday), avalanche conditions remain touchy on the upper elevation slopes due to the presence of a persistent weak layer in our snowpack. The potential for a person to trigger a 1-3′ deep slab avalanche continues to be possible above treeline in the Turnagain Pass and surrounding areas (including the Girdwood Valley and Summit lake regions). See the discussion below regarding two human caused avalanches from over the weekend. Many of these upper elevation slopes are hanging in the balance, due to our poor snowpack structure, and need either a person or a decent storm to get them to slide. Areas below treeline and lower angle slopes (where most people have been recreating) have a lower avalanche potential and have remained intact.


Keep checking the photos/observations page for early season information. Also, the calendar page is filling up with free awareness classes and other avalanche education courses offered in our area.


Over the long holiday weekend we heard of two human triggered avalanches. The first was on Saturday Nov. 10th in the higher terrain above Girdwood Valley. This slide caught, carried and partially buried two people while ascending a slope – a great write up can be found HERE. The second was on Monday Nov. 12 and occurred on Todd’s run, a northwest facing bowl off the Tincan ridgeline. Details are limited with this second slide but can be found HERE.

The suspected weak layer for both of these avalanches is the October faceted snow. This “sugary” layer is 4-8″ thick and sits on the ground or old hard snow left over from the summer. Above the faceted layer is 10-24+” of snow from early November that varies from unsupportable loose powder to hard wind slab. The areas of most concern are where the Nov snow is supportable to the weight of a person, such as wind slabs. Hollow, or punchy snow is something to look for as well as listening for whoomphing, feeling for collapsing and watching for cracking.

With a few inches, and possibly up to 6″, of new snow, sluffs and some smaller new snow slab avalanches may be seen Thursday into Friday. Keep in mind these new snow instabilities, involving only the new snow, are less concerning than triggering an avalanche that breaks into the October snow.

The above avalanche is on Todd’s run, a NW facing bowl off of the Tincan ridge. Believed to be skier triggered on Monday.

Looking forward to the next significant storm: We are still waiting for a system to roll through large enough to add a big load to our pack and hopefully shake up this pestering faceted later. When this happens we could see slides propagate in areas that are not expected and remote triggers (for example, triggering an avalanche on top of you from below).

Wed, November 14th, 2012
Above 2,500'
0 - No Rating
Avalanche risk
0 - No Rating
Avalanche risk
Below Treeline
Below 1,000'
0 - No Rating
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.
Wed, November 14th, 2012

As of Wednesday evening, 3″ of new snow has fallen at the SNOTEL on Center Ridge; this often mean 4-5″ at the upper elevations. The snow has come in with easterly ridgetop winds blowing 10-15mph with gusts to 30mph. Snowfall should taper off tonight and tomorrow, possibly adding another inch, and skies clear by Friday into Saturday. Temperatures have been in the mid twenties on the ridgelines and just above freezing at sea level. Snow line has been hovering between 200′ and sea level. With the clearing skies Friday and Saturday winds are expected to shift to the north and colder air is headed our way.

Recent Observations for Turnagain Pass
Date Region Location
11/16/23 Turnagain Observation: Tincan Common
11/14/23 Turnagain Observation: Sunburst/Magnum
11/14/23 Turnagain Observation: Seattle Ridge
11/13/23 Turnagain Avalanche: Tincan Trees
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11/11/23 Turnagain Observation: Tincan Common
11/11/23 Turnagain Observation: Taylor Pass – Sunburst
11/10/23 Turnagain Observation: Tincan
11/10/23 Turnagain Observation: Tincan Trees
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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.