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Tue, November 11th, 2014 - 7:00AM
Wed, November 12th, 2014 - 7:00AM
Wendy Wagner
Avalanche risk The Bottom Line

Natural avalanche activity continues in the Kenai Mountains and the Eastern Turnagain Arm area of the Western Chugach.

As warm and stormy weather continues, EXTRA CAUTION needs to be exercised if you are heading into the backcountry. Countless glide and wet avalanches have occurred in the past 4 days and are expected to continue this week. These types of avalanches are unpredictable (releasing at anytime) and can occur on lower angle slopes (in the 35 degree range). These avalanches also have very dense wet debris and getting caught up in even a small “low-volume” avalanche can be extremely hard to escape and tear a ligament with ease.

Consider keeping your head in the avalanche game while staying dry by checking out the 2014 Southcentral Alaska Avalanche Workshop proceedings!

*We will continue to post intermittent updates during the first half of November. Advisories will begin in mid-November or as the snowpack warrants.

Upcoming Events

November 13th:   The 6th Annual CNFAIC Fundraiser featuring Luc Mehl !!

November 18th:  FREE  Avalanche Awareness talk at REI  – 6:00-7:30pm

November 20th:    Winter Project World Premiere!! A documentary on backcountry snowmachining in Alaska – Bear Tooth Theater and Pub

November 29th:   Avalanche Recognition & Rescue – Glen Alps – hosted by the Alaska Avalanche School

Tue, November 11th, 2014
Above 2,500'
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Avalanche risk
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Avalanche risk
Below Treeline
Below 1,000'
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Avalanche risk
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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
  • Glide Avalanches
    Glide Avalanches
Glide Avalanches
Glide Avalanches are the release of the entire snow cover as a result of gliding over the ground. Glide avalanches can be composed of wet, moist, or almost entirely dry snow. They typically occur in very specific paths, where the slope is steep enough and the ground surface is relatively smooth. They are often proceeded by full depth cracks (glide cracks), though the time between the appearance of a crack and an avalanche can vary between seconds and months. Glide avalanches are unlikely to be triggered by a person, are nearly impossible to forecast, and thus pose a hazard that is extremely difficult to manage.
More info at Avalanche.org


Glide avalanches, wet slab and wet loose avalanches continue to plague the backcountry in what we are affectionately calling the “Nuri Cycle”. It was Typhoon Nuri after all that pushed the jet stream South, only to bring back with it warm and moisture-laden air. Beginning Friday 11/7, rain falling on snow combined with warm temperatures destabilized the snowpack and avalanches began to fail at or near the ground. We have had many photos sent in to us – THANK YOU! Below are just a couple examples:

This is the West face of Orca from the old town of Girdwood (11/10).

Almost countless glide cracks and releases on Tincan’s Westerly face. The treed rollovers as well as above treeline slopes are good places to avoid for obvious reasons right now.

*Most of these avalanches are glide avalanches and glides have the tendency to avalanche when the snowpack starts to cool down and freeze – or even when it has been cool for several days. So, when the skies clear and the pack is hardening it DOES NOT mean that glide avalanches are through. This is very important to keep in mind when you venture out on the next clear day!

Avalanche Problem 2
  • Storm Slabs
    Storm Slabs
Storm Slabs
Storm Slab avalanches are the release of a cohesive layer (a slab) of new snow that breaks within new snow or on the old snow surface. Storm-slabs typically last between a few hours and few days (following snowfall). Storm-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

We have very little information for the upper alpine zones (above ~3,500′). There are no weather stations with snow data that high in elevation, but we do know it has been snowing! Hopefully the cracks on the glaciers are beginning to fill in and a base it being set for the year.

If you find yourself in the higher terrain be on the lookout for storm snow avalanches – most likely in the form of wind slabs. Some of these could be quite large as the easterly winds have been averaging in the 20’s and 30’s with gusts to 70mph. Watch for signs of recent avalanches, listen and feel for collapsing or cracking in the snow and feel for snow that is “punchy” (stronger/harder snow over weaker/softer snow). These are all signs of instability.

Tue, November 11th, 2014

As the remnants of Nuri slowly exit we should see another round of rain tomorrow and clearing skies by Thursday or Friday. The temperatures look to remain unseasonably warm however. See below for a look at just how early November is shaping up. Notice the green line, which is snow depth, that has been decreasing as the rain snow line increases. The scale for snow depth is cut off but, as of today we are at 13″ total snow depth at the Turnagain Pass SNOTEL1880′ elevation – we were at 21″ just a few days ago. One thing is for certain, we could use some colder temperatures with all this precipitation!

We update these charts daily. You can find them on our “weather history” tab under the weather menu item on our website!

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.