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ARCHIVED - Forecasts expire after 24 hours.
Wed, December 11th, 2013 - 7:00AM
Thu, December 12th, 2013 - 7:00AM
Wendy Wagner
Avalanche risk The Bottom Line

We continue to have an overall  LOW  avalanche danger in the mountains surrounding Turnagain Pass. Avalanche activity is unlikely. The main concerns for backcountry travelers are conditions associated with an early season and thin snow cover.

This advisory will extend through tomorrow, Wednesday. The next advisory will be Thursday morning, December 12th.

Wed, December 11th, 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
  • Normal Caution
    Normal Caution
Normal Caution
Normal Caution means triggering an avalanche is unlikely but not impossible.
More info at Avalanche.org

The recent cold temperatures, after the early December warm spell, have essentially tied the surface of our snowpack together with a crust. The crust is unsupportable in most areas and breaking through into the weak sugar snow below can make skiing and riding challenging. You can see a few recent observations discussing this HERE and HERE.

Again, the main hazards in the backcountry are rocks and other objects near the snow surface. I would also argue that an additional hazard is negotiating the ‘ankle grabbing’ surface crust. 

Snowpack Discussion:
A layer of surface hoar has formed on the top of our snowpack during the past few days. This is anchored to the crust that caps the snowpack and forms a surface hoar/crust combination. Though the combo not dangerous now, it will have our attention when we get our next shot of snow and a slab forms on top. 

Surface hoar on Seattle Ridge (2,500′). Photo: Fitz                  Surface hoar on breakable crust near Ingram Creek. Photo: Bob Sutherland

Wed, December 11th, 2013

During the past 24-hours we have been on the north side of a large low pressure system sitting well to our south. This has brought cloud cover but no precipitation to our zone. Temperatures have been in the 20’s F at most locations and wind light from the southeast.

This pattern will remain through the day before it breaks down and colder air ushers in from the north tomorrow. We can expect partly cloudy skies today with temperatures remaining in the mid to upper 20’s F across the board. We do have a chance for a few flurries. Winds will be light and variable before turning northeast tonight with the approach of the colder polar air. Wednesday we should see skies clear and temperatures in the teens and single digits with light northerly winds.

If you have read this far in the advisory you may be happy to hear that a shift in our weather pattern is coming this weekend. Confidence looks to be high at the NWS that a decent precipitation event is headed our way. Let’s cross our fingers the models are right. See their full discussion HERE.

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.