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Thu, December 5th, 2013 - 7:00AM
Fri, December 6th, 2013 - 7:00AM
Kevin Wright
Avalanche risk The Bottom Line

Low  avalanche danger continues in the mountains of Turnagain Pass.  The snowpack consists of weak shallow snow with pockets of unreactive wind slab at higher elevations.  Freezing rain and warming temperatures are the big weather news for today.  Those changes will likely not cause much change to the bigger picture in terms of snow stability for today.

Special Announcements

Anchorage School District schools are closed today due to dangerous driving conditions and freezing rain.  Be safe on the roads if you plan to head to the mountains today.

Thu, December 5th, 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

If I had to pick one of our avalanche problems to talk about a primary concern, then wind slab would be the one.  We have not seen any pockets with a tendency to pop under the weight of a person.  Even in the places where stiff surface snow can be found, it has a stubborn, low tension nature.  

In areas that are not exposed to wind, the snowpack is 15-30 inches of weak faceted snow.  The cold and clear temperatures combined with shallow snow have formed a steep temperature gradient and changed the snow to big sugary crystals.

The snowpack is shallow…  Exposed rocks and vegetation are abundant.  That lack of coverage is probably the biggest safety concern for skiers and snowboarders in the backcountry right now.

Thu, December 5th, 2013

It has been nearly a week since significant snowfall.  Cold temperatures and clear skies gave way to a big change yesterday, but not the white stuff that we were hoping for.  Temperatures at some ridgetop weather stations are above freezing this morning.  A freezing rain advisory is in effect for Anchorage and the greater region, including Girdwood and the Kenai peninsula.  Driving conditions deteriorated yesterday evening with a slick glaze of ice on the roads, and that freezing rain will continue today.  

Freezing rain is expected to form a surface crust on our snowpack.  This isn’t an avalanche concern for now, but may become a weak layer interface when the crust gets buried by later snow storms.  

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.