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Wed, January 16th, 2013 - 7:00AM
Thu, January 17th, 2013 - 7:00AM
Kevin Wright
Avalanche risk The Bottom Line

With calmer weather, colder temperatures, and less recent evidence of avalanche activity the danger rating drops to MODERATE today for the first time since December 23rd.   A significant amount of uncertainty still exists, and if an avalanche is triggered it may still be very large and dangerous.   Below treeline the danger is LOW.

Wed, January 16th, 2013
Above 2,500'
2 - Moderate
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.
Avalanche Problem 1
  • Deep Persistent Slabs
    Deep Persistent Slabs
Deep Persistent Slabs
Deep Persistent Slab avalanches are the release of a thick cohesive layer of hard snow (a slab), when the bond breaks between the slab and an underlying persistent weak layer deep in the snowpack. The most common persistent weak layers involved in deep, persistent slabs are depth hoar or facets surrounding a deeply buried crust. Deep Persistent Slabs are typically hard to trigger, are very destructive and dangerous due to the large mass of snow involved, and can persist for months once developed. They are often triggered from areas where the snow is shallow and weak, and are particularly difficult to forecast for and manage.
More info at Avalanche.org

The primary concern is still the deep slab problem.  Just two days ago we had a number of very large avalanches, both in Turnagain Arm and Turnagain Pass.  Since that time the rain and snow stopped and the temperature dropped significantly.  Yesterday, just one day removed from the storm, a number of explosive triggers in Turnagain Arm had few significant results. 

The majority of the avalanche activity from the final burst of moisture seemed to be focused on steep, rocky terrain.  This gives us a good starting point on which to base our terrain choices.  The weak layer that may collapse to intiate an avalanche is unlikely to be affected by a skier in areas of deeper snow.  The likely “trigger points” will be shallower, where the stress of a person doesn’t have to penetrate through as much strong snow.  Steep north facing lines, complex terrain with chutes and ribs, and generally shallower areas should be avoided today.  This problem should be approached by traveling where the snow is deepest, and testing it where it is thinnest to gauge the worst case scenario.

Yesterday our pit tests on Sunburst found the same weak base layer that has plagued us for most of the season.  The general feel of the layering structure isn’t much different from what we’ve been seeing.  However, the force require to initiate a collapse was significantly greater than it was a week ago.  The bad news is that it still collapses, and it still propagates.  This tells us that triggering a collapse is less likely, but if it happens, a large avalanche is still very possible. 

Pictured below is the before and after of Alpenglow peak which slid on Monday.


Avalanche Problem 2
  • Wind Slabs
    Wind Slabs
Wind Slabs
Wind Slab avalanches are the release of a cohesive layer of snow (a slab) formed by the wind. Wind typically transports snow from the upwind sides of terrain features and deposits snow on the downwind side. Wind slabs are often smooth and rounded and sometimes sound hollow, and can range from soft to hard. Wind slabs that form over a persistent weak layer (surface hoar, depth hoar, or near-surface facets) may be termed Persistent Slabs or may develop into Persistent Slabs.
More info at Avalanche.org

Above treeline there was wind during the last storm system.  Ridges have a stiff, windblown character to them.  Deeper and stiffer snow will be found on the lee side of terrain features.  We don’t have a lot of evidence to suggest that windslabs will be unstable, but it is something to watch out for. 

Wed, January 16th, 2013

The last major storm system left us on early Monday, giving us more than 48 hours since significant precipitation.   Temperatures have dropped since that time, freezing the rain and wet snow that fell below 2000 feet into a surface crust.  

Today, 3-5 inches of snow is in the forecast with light wind.   Temperatures should remain below freezing.   The weather today is not expected to contribute much to the avalanche problem.  

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
11/12/23 Turnagain Observation: Sunburst
11/12/23 Turnagain Avalanche: Goldpan – avalanche
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.