Turnagain Pass RSS

ARCHIVED - Forecasts expire after 24 hours.
Mon, March 28th, 2016 - 7:00AM
Tue, March 29th, 2016 - 7:00AM
Wendy Wagner
Avalanche risk The Bottom Line

Rain, snow and wind over the forecast region will push the avalanche hazard to CONSIDERABLE today. Wet avalanches and glide avalanches may release naturally at the mid-elevations (between 1,000′ and 2,500′). These can be large and destructive slides releasing at, or near, the ground. In the Alpine, wind slab avalanches 6-18″ thick, that are composed of the new snow, will be forming and may release naturally. Last, cornices may begin to fall with the warm conditions.  

Travel Advice:
With poor visibility expected today and the chance for large destructive slides, knowing the terrain you are traveling in is key. Simply avoid being under large slopes, runout zones and gullies.

Special Announcements

Remember The Friends of the CNFAIC is part of  PICK.CLICK.GIVE. Your donations are greatly appreciated and integral to making the CNFAIC possible and sustainable.    Be part of the ‘Movement’! Thank you for your support!

Headed to Arctic Man 2016? Don’t forget your beacon, shovel and probe! CNFAIC will be there all week and offering two FREE companion rescue workshops. Click  HERE  for more information. We hope to see you there!

Mon, March 28th, 2016
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
  • Wet Loose
    Wet Loose
Wet Loose
Wet Loose avalanches are the release of wet unconsolidated snow or slush. These avalanches typically occur within layers of wet snow near the surface of the snowpack, but they may quickly gouge into lower snowpack layers. Like Loose Dry Avalanches, they start at a point and entrain snow as they move downhill, forming a fan-shaped avalanche. Other names for loose-wet avalanches include point-release avalanches or sluffs. Loose Wet avalanches can trigger slab avalanches that break into deeper snow layers.
More info at Avalanche.org

A fire hose of moisture is pointing our way bringing warm, wet and windy weather to most of Southcentral Alaska. In the Girdwood Valley, Turnagain Pass and Northern Kenai we are seeing light rain up to 1,500′ currently with wet snow above this. The rain/snow line is expected to rise as high as 4,000′ by tonight… If this happens it will be our highest rain line for the season. Precipitation amounts starting yesterday and ending at 6am this morning vary:

Girdwood Valley: 1.3″ water with around 10″ wet snow above 1,500′
Turnagain Pass:  Precip sensors are not reading accurately but the snow depth sensor reports 6″ of wet snow 
Summit Lake:  ~.3-.5″ water with around 4″ of snow

WET AVALANCHES: (two types)
1st type, small(ish):  As the storm warms up, rain will begin to fall on the 5-10+ inches of new snow that sits on a crust. Wet loose avalanches will be likely but smaller because they will only be composed of the new snow. Debris could run quite far however.

2nd type, much larger:  If the rain and warm temperatures soften/melt the surface crusts, water will be added to an already moist/wet snowpack at the mid-elevations. In this case we could see large wet loose and possibly wet slab avalanches. These can release deeper in the pack or near the ground creating a much larger and destructive slide.

Image below shows the warm Southerly flow that is pumping into Southcentral, AK.


*One of the big questions is, are we now in a “shed cycle”? This is when the snowpack becomes wet and unsupportable and literally sheds off the mountains. The answer is, maybe. It looks like this storm has potential to wet and warm the pack enough below 2,500′ (maybe even up to 3,000′) that we will start seeing large wet loose and wet slab avalanches. These could be hard to discern with the plethora of glide avalanches out there however. Although at the end of the day, it is a bit of a mess at the mid-elevations at Turnagain Pass…

Avalanche Problem 2
  • 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

We could see another spike in glide avalanche activity with this warming event. Glide cracks will likely be hard to see with hampered visibility and another reason to stick to mellow terrain with nothing steep above you.

Check out this short clip of a glide avalanche caught on video in the Seattle Creek drainage on Saturday (Credit Allen Garrett). More on that avalanche report HERE. A big thanks to Allen for sending us his photos and video!

We did not see any new glide activity at the Pass yesterday but there were several noted South of Turnagain Pass as well as in Girdwood Valley. 

Additional Concern
  • 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

At elevations lucky enough to see dry(ish) snow throughout the day wind slab avalanches will be likely. How thick these will be will depend on how much snow has fallen, roughly anywhere from 6-18″. The storm will likely keep folks out of these high elevations anyhow, but a wind slab releasing from above may trigger a wet avalanche below.

Mon, March 28th, 2016

Yesterday’s weather consisted of sunny skies in the morning that were replaced by thick clouds and precipitation by the afternoon as the leading edge of a storm system moved in. Light rain has been falling to 1,000-1,500′ with wet snow above this. Ridgetop winds were strong overnight with averages in the 20-30’s and gusts to 50mph from the East.  

Today, we are expecting this warm southerly flow to continue pushing moisture our way from the Pacific. Temperatures will get warmer by the hour through tomorrow and the rain/snow line could reach the ridgetops by tomorrow night (that’s up to 4,000′). Temperature at 1,000′ should rise to the 40’s today. Between .5 and 1″ of water equivalent is expected with another ~.25-.5″ tonight. Ridgetop winds should remain strong, in the 20-30mph range with stronger gusts from the East.

Tomorrow, Tuesday, the moisture should push off to the East before another Southerly flow points our way possibly on Wednesday or Thursday.

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

  Temp Avg (F) Snow (in) Water (in) Snow Depth (in)
Center Ridge (1880′) 32   5   ??   128  
Summit Lake (1400′) 33   2   0.3   44  
Alyeska Mid (1700′) 32   10   1.3   110  

RIDGETOP 24-hour data (6am – 6am)

  Temp Avg (F) Wind Dir Wind Avg (mph) Wind Gust (mph)
Sunburst (3812′) 23   NE   20   51  
Seattle Ridge (2400′) 25   SE   24   51  
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
11/12/23 Turnagain Avalanche: Goldpan – avalanche
11/11/23 Turnagain Observation: Tincan Common
11/11/23 Turnagain Observation: Taylor Pass – Sunburst
11/10/23 Turnagain Observation: Tincan
11/10/23 Turnagain Observation: Tincan Trees
Riding Areas

The riding areas page has moved. Please click here & update your bookmarks.

Subscribe to Turnagain Pass
Avalanche Forecast by Email

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.