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Tue, March 17th, 2015 - 7:00AM
Wed, March 18th, 2015 - 7:00AM
Wendy Wagner
Avalanche risk The Bottom Line

A CONSIDERABLE avalanche danger exists at all elevations in the backcountry as a quick-hitting storm deposited 2+ feet of new snow yesterday. A CONSIDERABLE danger means human triggered avalanches are likely. In today’s case, these are 2-3′ storm snow slabs that could propagate across entire slopes.  We are all powder starved, but patience is the key. We need to give the snowpack time and let the new snow adjust before venturing into the steeper terrain.  

**Expert level terrain management skills are necessary for avoiding  avalanche terrain and having a safe day in the backcountry. Areas to avoid  are  slopes 35 degrees or steeper and include terrain traps such as small cut banks and gullies in the trees – such as those found in the Tincan Trees.  

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Tue, March 17th, 2015
Above 2,500'
3 - Considerable
Avalanche risk
3 - Considerable
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
  • 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

After waiting for months and months we finally got a true shot of winter yesterday on Turnagain Pass! A fast moving storm moved in late Sunday and by the time it moved out yesterday evening (24-hours later) we had over 2′ of new snow. The new snow came in with very strong Easterly winds and those have died down as well.  As far as new snow amounts? Below is a rundown on storm totals.

Weather Station Storm Totals:                                                     2,500′ Estimated Storm Totals:

Turnagain Pass (1880′)      22″ snow  /  2.0″ water                      Turnagain Pass         26-30+”
Alyeska Mid (1700′)           16″ snow  /  1.3 water                        Girdwood Valley        18-22+”
Summit Lake (1400′)          13″ snow  /  0.9 water                        Summit Lake             14-16+”

Although visibility was hampered yesterday, we were able to see a few debris piles at the bottom of gullies pointing to natural avalanche activity occurring above. Several human triggered slides occurred as well in the Tincan Trees, photos below. 

Today, the storm is past and natural avalanches are not likely, but human triggered avalanches are and this is the most dangerous time for skiers and riders. If the skies clear enough for travel above treeline, managing terrain will be essential. This means sticking to slopes 35 degrees or less and staying out from under slopes or steep gullies and terrain traps in the trees.  

Photos below are of two skier triggered slab avalanches in the Tincan Trees yesterday. Report from yesterday is HERE.




Certain slopes harbor faceted snow under the 2′ of new snow and this set-up (photo below) will allow for remotely triggered slides and the potential for triggering an avalanche from below. Although not all slopes have this layering, we are still too close to the tail end of the storm to jump into steeper terrain in general. 


Tue, March 17th, 2015

Yesterday was the first bona fide storm snow day of the season, believe it or not!! The storm began Sunday night and peaked mid-day yesterday with snowfall rates exceeding 2″/hour and a storm total of 22″ at the Turnagain Pass SNOTEL. 24-hour totals are below in the charts. Easterly ridgetop winds peaked mid-day as well with averages as high as 65mph and gusts in the 80’s. Temperatures hovered in the mid to upper 20’s on the ridgetops and near 32F at 1.000′ (just enough for damp/wet snow in the parking lots).

The storm moved out yesterday evening and overnight skies have cleared and winds have died down. Today, this short break will be replaced by another system headed our way late tonight. Skies should remain mostly cloudy with a few flurries through the day while winds will continue from the East in the 15mph range. Temperatures will be on a slow rise, up to 30F at treeline and the upper 20’s on the ridgetops.

The pattern responsible for our return to winter is a large complex low South of the Aleutians, which has a series of embedded disturbances tracking Northward through the Sound and into Southcentral. This pattern will continue through the week and bring additional snowfall. The rain/snow line should be around 1,000′ and possibly higher tomorrow.

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

  Temp Avg (F) Snow (in) Water (in) Snow Depth (in)
Center Ridge (1880′) 30   17   1.6   61  
Summit Lake (1400′) 31   13   0.9   22  
Alyeska Mid (1700′) 31   10   0.9   40  

RIDGETOP 24-hour data (6am – 6am)

  Temp Avg (F) Wind Dir Wind Avg (mph) Wind Gust (mph)
Sunburst (3812′) 22   ENE   27   89  
Seattle Ridge (2400′) 25   Wind Sensor is   Rimed…  

Storm Day at the Pass!!

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
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11/11/23 Turnagain Observation: Tincan Common
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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.