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Sat, March 16th, 2013 - 7:00AM
Sun, March 17th, 2013 - 7:00AM
Kevin Wright
Avalanche risk The Bottom Line

Stability is excellent across the region, and avalanche danger will start off the day as LOW at all elevations.   The small amount of new snow 2 days ago did build some shallow windslabs, but nothing very notable or dangerous was reported yesterday.   Late in the day south aspects should be approached with more caution if the temperature ramps up today.   Wet loose avalanches are possible due to sun exposure at lower elevations.  

Get out and enjoy the backcountry this weekend.   Snow quality is variable, but pockets of powder can be found if you avoid the sun crust.  

Sat, March 16th, 2013
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.
Avalanche Problem 1
  • 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

Small pockets of wind slab were found occasionally yesterday from the 4-5 inches of new snow that fell on Thursday.  Loose snow sluff in the non-wind affected snow was also common, but less of an issue if you use good sluff management technique.  Wind slab is most likely found at higher elevations, below ridgetops, and in steep terrain.  Both the slabs and the sluffs are shallow and low volume, so as avalanches by themselves they are not a huge concern.  The bigger concern is related to the consequences of the terrain such as cliffs or no-fall zones. 

Cornices remain a low probability but high consequence avalanche problem.  These large overhanging features have the potential to produce the largest avalanches today.  Choose your lines to avoid cornice exposure, and always give them a wide berth when traveling on ridge crests.

Avalanche Problem 2
  • Wet Loose
    Wet Loose
Wet Loose
Wet Loose avalanches are the release of wet unconsolidated snow or slush. These avalanches typically occur within layers of wet snow near the surface of the snowpack, but they may quickly gouge into lower snowpack layers. Like Loose Dry Avalanches, they start at a point and entrain snow as they move downhill, forming a fan-shaped avalanche. Other names for loose-wet avalanches include point-release avalanches or sluffs. Loose Wet avalanches can trigger slab avalanches that break into deeper snow layers.
More info at Avalanche.org

It’s mid March already.  The sun has some significant power that has already built a series of crusts on south facing slopes.  As the temperatures rise this afternoon, wet loose snow may start to move at lower elevations on south exposures.  Cold temperatures this morning may delay the wet cycle, and any cloud cover will also prevent the surface snow from warming.

Sat, March 16th, 2013

Yesterday was one of those perfect Alaska days.   Today looks like more of the same.   Temperatures are cold this morning, reaching negative temperatures in a few places.   Most areas are comfortably in the teens.   As soon as the sun hits we can expect rising temperatures for the rest of the day.   Partly cloudy skies are forecasted.   Wind should be almost non-existent.  

We can expect a similar weather pattern for the rest of the week with no major storms on the horizon.  

Wendy will issue the next advisory on Sunday, March 17th.

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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.