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Wed, December 2nd, 2015 - 7:00AM
Thu, December 3rd, 2015 - 7:00AM
Heather Thamm
Avalanche risk The Bottom Line

Over the last few days avalanche stability in Turnagain Pass has been trending towards low danger, however with limited information and incremental loading a MODERATE avalanche danger still exists in the Alpine. Human triggered avalanches may be possible in steep terrain above 2500′. Practice safe travel techniques and ease into terrain one at a time, look for signs of instability before committing to steep slopes greater than 35 degrees.

Below 2500′ the danger is LOW where the snowpack is freezing after being saturated over the past week.

Special Announcements

Fireside Chats are back!  Join CNFAIC Forecaster Heather Thamm tonight, Wednesday Dec. 2nd in Anchorage at the  Blue and Gold Boardshop  for our first Fireside chat as she discusses terrain and route selection.  More information on our calendar page  HERE.

Outside of advisory area AVALANCHE CONDITIONS update:

Avalanche conditions still remain a concern in Hatcher Pass, and it may take road crews several more days before the East Hatcher Pass Management Area can be re-opened. Search efforts for a missing skier have been temporarily suspended until conditions are safer for ground teams to continue. Visit  hatcherpassavalanchecenter.org for current information on Hatcher Pass conditions and click HERE  to read the most current article on search efforts.  

Wed, December 2nd, 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
  • Normal Caution
    Normal Caution
Normal Caution
Normal Caution means triggering an avalanche is unlikely but not impossible.
More info at Avalanche.org

Over the last few days we have received incremental amounts of snow (5+”) and another 3-5” is expected today. Should snowfall become heavy and/or ridgetop winds pick up beyond the anticipated 10-20mph, be on the lookout for signs of instability. Plain and simple, if you observe any redflags (recent avalanches, shooting cracks, or hear “whumphing” sounds) choose gentle slope angles. 

No new signs of instability have been observed over the past five days since a wet warm storm dumped an upwards of 4′ of heavy snow in upper elevations around Girdwood and Turnagain Pass. In general snowpack conditions have been stabilizing gradually and lots of high quality powder can be found. Caution is advised if poking into steeper terrain, especially on Northern aspects where it can be difficult to assess the snowpack due to generally higher consequence terrain, like cliffs, rocks, and badness.

Remember to always practice safe travel rituals on steep slopes, namely, only expose one person at a time, watch your partners carefully, and regroup in safe zones.

Snow coverage may still be thin near road level, but considering its early December Turnagain Pass is looking good!

Additional Concern
  • 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

Yesterday’s visibility finally allowed for a good look around Turnagain Pass to see some of the aftermath of our last storm. Debris was observed in some of the usual paths, but lots of steep terrain did not avalanche during this last cycle.

On leeward aspects where the snowpack is deep, over 4’ thick, stability is suspected to be pretty good, but there is still little known about windward aspects above 3000’, where the snowpack could be thinner. What we do know is 2-4′ of ‘Thanksgiving’ snow sits on top a variety of old surfaces, one of these being a layer of small facets near the ground. Again, caution is warranted in steep terrain, as an avalanche breaking in the facets near the ground would be large.

Wed, December 2nd, 2015

Light showery conditions have been the theme of the last 5 days. Winds have been light to moderate; mostly from the East/Northeast and temperatures have been mild, ranging from the mid 20Fs to low 30Fs.

Overnight 1 € of new snow has fallen in Turnagain Pass and 2 € in upper elevations around Girdwood. Temperatures have increased slightly into the low 30Fs at ~1000′. Winds have remained light out of the East/Northeast.

Today snow showers are expected to bring 3-5 € of new snow to the upper elevations near Girdwood and Turnagain Pass. Temperatures may increase above 32F, causing a mix of rain and snow for lower elevations. Easterly winds are expected to be 10-20mph near ridgetops.  

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

  Temp Avg (F) Snow (in) Water (in) Snow Depth (in)
Center Ridge (1880′) 28F   1   0.1   25  
Summit Lake (1400′) 25F   2   0.2 12  
Alyeska Mid (1700′) 28F   2   0.2 13  

RIDGETOP 24-hour data (6am – 6am)

  Temp Avg (F) Wind Dir Wind Avg (mph) Wind Gust (mph)
Sunburst (3812′) 24F   NE   9   25  
Seattle Ridge (2400′) 24F   n/a   n/a   n/a  
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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.