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Thu, March 3rd, 2016 - 7:00AM
Fri, March 4th, 2016 - 7:00AM
Heather Thamm
Avalanche risk The Bottom Line

The avalanche danger is MODERATE today in Turnagain Pass for cornice fall, lingering wind slabs, and glide avalanches. Triggering a large cornice or an old wind slab 1-2′ is possible today and will become more of a concern throughout the day as the sun adds stress to solar aspects. Glide cracks continue to open up and move and can release spontaneously without warning. Evaluate the terrain for any of these issues and pay close attention to how the sun is affecting the surface snow on sunny aspects.

*Yesterday we received word of a large natural avalanche South of Grandview along the railroad corridor. Observations over the last few weeks have identified several buried weak layers within the snowpack in the Summit Lake area. No information is known about the structure of this particular avalanche, but is something to keep in mind if venturing into Lynx Creek or the Summit Lake zone.  

Special Announcements

 Due minimal snow coverage and signs of snow machine impact to exposed vegetation the  Primrose Trail access to Lost Lake has officially closed today, March 3, 2016.   Thanks to many of you who have made an effort to stay on the trail and to educate others about the consequences of tearing up the vegetation. Until this area recieves more snow the trail will remain closed.  

Thu, March 3rd, 2016
Above 2,500'
2 - Moderate
Avalanche risk
2 - Moderate
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
  • Cornice
Cornice Fall is the release of an overhanging mass of snow that forms as the wind moves snow over a sharp terrain feature, such as a ridge, and deposits snow on the downwind (leeward) side. Cornices range in size from small wind drifts of soft snow to large overhangs of hard snow that are 30 feet (10 meters) or taller. They can break off the terrain suddenly and pull back onto the ridge top and catch people by surprise even on the flat ground above the slope. Even small cornices can have enough mass to be destructive and deadly. Cornice Fall can entrain loose surface snow or trigger slab avalanches.
More info at Avalanche.org

Cornice fall may be one of the larger hazards today with sunshine acting to weaken these already tenuous bombs. Cornices right now are LARGE and UNPREDICTABLE– some bigger than semi-trucks and some with large cracks extending their full length. Yesterday melting snow and dripping water could be seen on cornice faces during the heat of the day along Magnum Ridge. Today the sun will continue to weaken cornices making human triggered (snowmachine or skier) and natural cornice fall more likely in the afternoon. Limiting time spent under these is key and giving them extra room along ridgelines will be necessary.  Not only would it suck to trigger a cornice while on top of one, imagine what it would be like if people were also below it. Evaluate all ridgelines and slopes for potential cornice fall and be weary of existing skin tracks and up-routes. There are many areas where the “normal” route is in the line of fire.  


Magnum Ridge Cornice – The estabilshed skin track is directly on top of 30-40′ cornice feature. 


Same corniced ridge on Magnum. Note the long crack observed on February 18th before a 10 day storm added more weight and stress to this cornice. Photo by Amanda Goss.

Avalanche Problem 2
  • Wind Slabs
    Wind Slabs
Wind Slabs
Wind Slab avalanches are the release of a cohesive layer of snow (a slab) formed by the wind. Wind typically transports snow from the upwind sides of terrain features and deposits snow on the downwind side. Wind slabs are often smooth and rounded and sometimes sound hollow, and can range from soft to hard. Wind 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

Strong winds during a 10-day storm have created layers of wind-affected snow throughout Turnagain Pass. Observations over the last several days have been showing this problem to be stabilizing, however today’s warm temperatures and direct sun could be a catalyst for a human triggered wind slab. Triggering a wind slab is still possible on slopes steeper than 35 degrees especially on slopes with unsupported terrain features. Ease into steeper terrain with caution and avoid solar aspects if you find moist surface snow or see wet loose point releases in motion. 

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

Glide cracks are moving and coming out of hiding after they were covered by wind and snow during the storm cycle. Although it has been several days since the last glide crack we know of released and avalanched, they are still on the move. Limiting time spent under cracks is crucial, as they will mow anything down in their path if one does release.

Very large glide crack on the SW shoulder of Cornbiscuit – view from the Seward Hwy. The entire SW face of Cornbiscuit has extensive glide cracks. Click HERE for more pictures from yesterday.



Thu, March 3rd, 2016

Yesterday skies were clear and sunny and temperatures reached mid-high 30’s F during the warmest part of the day, around 2pm. Calm winds switched directions mid day from an Easterly direction to a Westerly direction.   Overnight skies remained clear and temperatures dropped into the teens to mid 20’s F.

Today Westerly winds are expected in increase slightly 10-15mph along ridgetops. Skies will remain sunny and day time temperatures are expected to spike mid day.

Tomorrow a pattern shift is expected with a possibility of scattered snow showers.    

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

  Temp Avg (F) Snow (in) Water (in) Snow Depth (in)
Center Ridge (1880′) 27   0   0   140  
Summit Lake (1400′) 22   0   0   42  
Alyeska Mid (1700′) 28   0   0   105  

RIDGETOP 24-hour data (6am – 6am)

  Temp Avg (F) Wind Dir Wind Avg (mph) Wind Gust (mph)
Sunburst (3812′)  28 NE becoming W   4   10  
Seattle Ridge (2400′) 24   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.