Turnagain Pass RSS

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Wed, March 9th, 2016 - 7:00AM
Thu, March 10th, 2016 - 7:00AM
Aleph Johnston-Bloom
Avalanche risk The Bottom Line

The avalanche hazard is  MODERATE  today above 1,000′.  Glide cracks continue to release and threaten a substantial amount of terrain frequented by skiers and snowmachiners in the mid-elevations. Time to say it again as we in are in active glide cycle, ‘DON’T MESS WITH THE BROWN FROWN!’ In the Alpine, surface instabilities such as shallow wind slabs and loose snow avalanches are still possible and travel on or underneath cornices should be avoided.

Check out the new video from the Forest Service National Avalanche Center explaining the North American Avalanche Danger Scale. Click HERE.

Special Announcements

Tune-up your avalanche skills for Spring Break! Know Before You GO!

Thursday, March 10th we are offering a FREE Avalanche Awareness Class at the Girdwood Community Center from 6:30-8:00 pm. This is sponsored by Powderhound Ski Shop. For more info click  HERE. Join CNFAIC avalanche specialist Heather Thamm for a great intro to avalanche education.

Saturday, March 12th join us at Turnagain Pass for a FREE Avalanche Rescue Workshop from 11 am-12:30 pm at the motorized lot on Turnagain Pass. This class is open to everyone. Please bring your beacon, shovel and probe. For more info click HERE.  Look for the blue CNFAIC Avalanche trailer. We hope to see you all there!

Wed, March 9th, 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
  • 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

This has been an active week so far with glide avalanches releasing in popular terrain on the motorized and non-motorized sides of the highway. Yesterday we received a report that the Cornbicuit glide crack released recently; it is worth checking out the observation. This type of avalanche would be unsurvivable. Luckily they are avoidable. Steer clear of existing glide cracks. 



Looking down the path of the Cornbiscuit glide avalanche. Photo: Chad Saetre

Close up of the Seattle Ridge glide avalanche crown. There is still more glide crack that could release.

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

It is still possible to find a shallow pocket of wind slab in steep leeward terrain. These will be most hazardous if you happen to trigger one in a high consequence spot that takes you for a ride over a cliff or into a terrain trap. Look for old stiff pillowed snow and cracking or hollow sounds while traveling. 

Loose snow: Loose snow sluffing will warrant management today if skiing the steeps.  Sluffs have been reported to be fast moving with the ability to entrain a significant amount of surface snow in big terrain.  This will be more pronounced on cooler, shadier North aspects. 

If the sun shines on southerly slopes it may be possible to get some surface snow moving as it warms and have wet loose snow activity. 


The Seattle Ridge Weather Station is back online after a de-riming mission. Check out the weather link for any recent wind loading HERE.

Additional Concern
  • 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

Avoid travel on or underneath the large cornices that loom over much of the leeward Alpine terrain. We continue to receive reports of these releasing naturally and you definitely do not want to trigger one on your snowmachine or skis. They often break much farther back than you expect and additionally there may be a deep cornice crack along the ridgeline to fall into. 

Wed, March 9th, 2016

Yesterday was described as a little bit of everything from completely obscured to patches of blue sky and sun. Temperatures were in the mid 20Fs and easterly winds were light.  

Today is forecasted to be partly to mostly cloudy with temperatures in the mid 20Fs to mid 30Fs and light easterly winds.  Tonight and tomorrow will be similar with minor cooling overnight.  

As we move into the weekend there is a chance of snow as the low in the Gulf spins some moisture into the advisory area but overall the weather looks to be fairly benign.  

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

  Temp Avg (F) Snow (in) Water (in) Snow Depth (in)
Center Ridge (1880′) 34    0 0   135  
Summit Lake (1400′) 33  0 0 43  
Alyeska Mid (1700′) 32  trace  trace 107  

RIDGETOP 24-hour data (6am – 6am)

  Temp Avg (F) Wind Dir Wind Avg (mph) Wind Gust (mph)
Sunburst (3812′) 23    ENE 10   31  
Seattle Ridge (2400′) 25  ESE*   11*   31*  

*Seattle Ridge winds were back online at 11 am yesterday.

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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.