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Thu, February 26th, 2015 - 7:00AM
Fri, February 27th, 2015 - 7:00AM
Heather Thamm
Avalanche risk The Bottom Line

Today in the Alpine the avalanche danger is  MODERATE  where triggering a slab 1-3′ thick is possible in steep terrain. This is a high consequence “scary MODERATE” problem that is possible in terrain with slope angles over 35 °. Below 2500′ the danger is  LOW,  where a supportable crust has formed on the surface.  

Special Announcements

The first annual SNOWBALL is tomorrow, Friday Feb.22. A “more formal than normal” night of music, door prizes, raffle and fun is on the schedule at the Taproot.  Please join the Friends of the Chugach National Forest Avalanche Information Center and Alaska Avalanche School  in an effort to support local avalanche education and information!  Tickets are one sale TODAY through Taproot Events Calendar Page.

Thu, February 26th, 2015
Above 2,500'
2 - Moderate
Avalanche risk
1 - Low
Avalanche risk
Below Treeline
Below 1,000'
0 - No Rating
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
  • Persistent Slabs
    Persistent Slabs
Persistent Slabs
Persistent Slab avalanches are the release of a cohesive layer of snow (a slab) in the middle to upper snowpack, when the bond to an underlying persistent weak layer breaks. Persistent layers include: surface hoar, depth hoar, near-surface facets, or faceted snow. Persistent weak layers can continue to produce avalanches for days, weeks or even months, making them especially dangerous and tricky. As additional snow and wind events build a thicker slab on top of the persistent weak layer, this avalanche problem may develop into a Deep Persistent Slab.
More info at Avalanche.org

As we move away from the most recent loading event last weekend the likelihood of triggering an avalanche is on the decline. A well-documented weak layer of facets beneath a 1-3’ slab can still be found, it has not disappeared, but the stability appears to be improving with time. No new weather events have added additional stress in the last five days and the lack of obvious instability (like no recent avalanches or widespread collapsing) point towards the weak layer slowly adjusting to its load. In test pits however, we are still finding a high likelihood of propagation, and if enough force is applied in just the right spot it could initiate a high consequence avalanche. 

This can be a tricky problem to manage in our heads as we find snow conditions in the Alpine feeling very much like the dense Chugach powder we so often associate with a stable Maritime snowpack. Just because someone skied a steep slope does not mean steep slopes are safe. Careful snowpack evaluation is recomended; getting a closer look underneath the slab could help remind you that a weak layer is lurking below.

Triggering a slab will be more likely on well-connected steeper slopes (> than 35°.) Trigger points are likely to be in thinner areas of the snowpack near rocks and along convexities of steep rollover features.

Be sure to practice safe travel habits. Constantly identify safe spots, move between islands of safety one at a time, and always have an escape zone in mind.  

Additional Concern
  • 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

Today daytime temperatures and expected to be in the mid to high 30’s and if cloud cover or fog roll in, this could increase the insulating affect and start breaking down the surface crust below 2500’. If you find warm temps causing you to sink into bottomless loose snow, avoid steep terrain where wet avalanches might be possible. This avalanche concern is unlikely, but is worth mentioning as our thin mid elevation snowpack battles with spring like conditions. 

The photo below was taken from the uptrack at Seattle Ridge yesterday as a dense valley fog began lifting late in the afternoon. 

Thu, February 26th, 2015

Yesterday a thick valley fog burned off later in the day and winds were calm. Temperatures were in the mid 20’s F most of the day with a spike mid day in the low 30’s F at mid elevations.  

Overnight temperatures dropped into the low 20’s F. Ridgetop winds were 10 mph out of the Southwest on Seattle Ridge. No new precipitation was recorded in the last 24 hours.

Today skies will be mostly sunny at higher elevation, and patches of valley fog are likely along Turnagain arm. Temperatures will be warm, in the mid 30’s F along ridgetops, with light to moderate winds out of the Southeast. Tonight cloud cover should move in and temperatures look to remain warm throughout the evening.

Our next chance for precipitation is Friday night into Saturday as a low-pressure system tracks in our direction from the Aleutians.  

PRECIPITATION 24-hour data (6am – 6am)

  Temp Avg (F) Snow (in) Water (in) Snow Depth (in)
Center Ridge (1880′) 24   0   0   40  
Summit Lake (1400′) 22   0   0   6  
Alyeska Mid (1700′)  24 0   0   23  

RIDGETOP 24-hour data (6am – 6am)

  Temp Avg (F) Wind Dir Wind Avg (mph) Wind Gust (mph)
Sunburst (3812′) 20   N/A   N/A   N/A  
Seattle Ridge (2400′) 20   Var.   4   12  
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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.