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Thu, November 26th, 2015 - 7:00AM
Fri, November 27th, 2015 - 7:00AM
Wendy Wagner
Avalanche risk The Bottom Line

A HIGH avalanche danger exists in the Turnagain Pass and Girdwood regions where over a foot of new snow combined with strong wind has created an unstable snowpack. Natural and human triggered slab avalanches (roughly 2′ thick) are likely.  A  MODERATE  danger exists in snow-free gullies and runouts below 1,000′ where debris can run from an avalanche occurring above.

Travel in avalanche terrain is NOT recommended in the Eastern Turnagain Arm region (Girdwood/Portage/Turnagain Pass) and the Kenai mountains. Check out this quick tutorial on how to identify avalanche terrain. Eating turkey, watching football and/or hitting Alyeska for their opening day are good alternatives.

Special Announcements



An Avalanche Warning remains in effect for the Hatcher Pass area – see  hatcherpassavalanchecenter.org. The Hatcher Pass road is closed and  Park Rangers are recommending the public stay out of this area.  

A  skier remains missing in the Hatcher Pass area. In addition to the road being closed, please be respectful of the rescue efforts. Our thoughts are with the family and friends at this difficult time

Petersville / Cantwell areas:
BE AWARE, if you are headed North of Anchorage, heavy snowfall the past week has created dangerous avalanche conditions in these regions as well.

**Happy Thanksgiving everyone. Excitement continues to be high for these early season storms and we are all powder starved from last season, but PLEASE be extra conservative this holiday weekend. Now is the time to let the new snow settle and adjust. Playing in mellow terrain and avoiding all slopes over 30 degrees and their runouts is recommended.  

Thu, November 26th, 2015
Above 2,500'
4 - High
Avalanche risk
4 - High
Avalanche risk
Below Treeline
Below 1,000'
2 - Moderate
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

The powerful storm that moved through last night has created a textbook avalanche scenario: Heavy snowfall (12-16+”) overnight with significant wind has rapidly loaded slopes. Although the new snow has fallen on a variety of preexisting surface conditions, the ‘rapid loading’ itself is the concern. Slab avalanches up to 2-3′ think are possible on windloaded slopes. These can release on their own, naturally, or are likely to be triggered by a person.

If you are headed out into the backcountry – steering clear of ALL avalanche terrain is advised. This includes runout zones. Keep in mind treed areas, such as Tincan and Eddies have avalanche terrain intermixed with safe terrain. Expert level snowpack and terrain assessment skills are needed to negotiate these areas safely.

Additional Concern
  • 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

A number of glide cracks still exist at mid-elevations on Turnagain pass, notably in areas like the Tincan trees. Travel under glide cracks should be avoided. Glide avalanches are very unpredictable and the recent warming temperatures could add to the potential for a glide to release.

Thu, November 26th, 2015

A warm Southwesterly flow has dominated the weather for the past several days. Light to moderate rain began yesterday and reached up to 2,000′ in places before turning to snow overnight. The rain/snow line is currently hovering near 500′ where it is expected to remain for the day. See snowfall and water totals below. Winds have been strong out of East averaging 30-40mph.

For today, light snowfall is expected to add 2-4″ at the mid-elevations before tapering off and allowing skies to breakup. Tonight another system moves in from the Southwest, yet is a bit cooler that the last one. We are looking at rain/snow lines near 500-1000′ with snowfall amounts in the 6-12″ range by Friday evening. More on that tomorrow!

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

  Temp Avg (F) Snow (in) Water (in) Snow Depth (in)
Center Ridge (1880′) 31   10+   1.1   28  
Summit Lake (1400′) 34   1   0.6   11  
Alyeska Mid (1700′) 33   16   2.2   25  

RIDGETOP 24-hour data (6am – 6am)

  Temp Avg (F) Wind Dir Wind Avg (mph) Wind Gust (mph)
Sunburst (3812′) 25    ENE 30   77  
Seattle Ridge (2400′) 26   SE   20   53  
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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.