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Mon, April 4th, 2016 - 7:00AM
Tue, April 5th, 2016 - 7:00AM
Wendy Wagner
Avalanche risk The Bottom Line

The avalanche danger is  CONSIDERABLE  in the Turnagain pass and surrounding areas due to large destructive glide avalanches. These are most pronounced at 3,000′ and below. Many popular slopes have dark brown glide cracks that could release at anytime and travel under these is discouraged. Cautious route-finding and careful terrain evaluation are essential to  avoid being under the runout of glide cracks.

In the Alpine, where a stout surface crust has formed, the avalanche danger is  LOW. If the sun comes out and melts this crust, wet loose avalanches are possible later in the day.

*As glide avalanches continue to release summer use trails with avalanche terrain above should be avoided. Byron trail in Portage Valley is not a recommended and the Turnagain Arm Trail between Bird and Girdwood, remains CLOSED.

Special Announcements

We are very sad to report that there was an avalanche fatality yesterday in the Hoodoo Mountains. This is in the Eastern Alaska Range and near the Arctic Man events. Details are limited at this time. Our thoughts and condolences go out the family and friends of the victim.

If you are headed to Arctic Man please stop by the large CNFAIC trailer (near the beer tent) for information regarding FREE rescue clinics and general avalanche information. We will also have a beacon park set up so you can practice your skills anytime, day or night. Click  HERE  for more information. The snowpack has been reported to be very unstable in the Hoodoos with many human triggered avalanches over the weekend. Please be on your guard and don’t forget your beacon, shovel and probe.


Mon, April 4th, 2016
Above 2,500'
1 - Low
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
  • 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 avalanches remain our primary concern in the Turnagain Pass and surrounding regions. Although the snowpack is stable itself, how it is sticking to the sides of the mountins is another thing. On all aspects at elevations below 3,000′ the snowpack, as a whole, continues to ooze down the slopes and create cracks (despite having a hard crust on the surface). Every now and again one of these cracks will release into a full-depth avalanche. There is no way to predict when a crack is going to release. What we do know is the frequency of glide avalanches is on the rise. Since Friday (4/1) five large glide avalanches occurred on Seattle Ridge and several others between Girdwood and Summit Lake. Read the reports from over the weekend HERE.

The reason this is so alarming is that new glide cracks are appearing daily and many threaten popular terrain. The Seattle Ridge uptrack is one of our biggest concerns because a large crack now puts this popular route in the line of fire. If you were to be in the wrong place at the wrong time you would not survive a glide avalanche. High marking or setting a skin track under a glide crack is not recommended!

Heather showed the photos below yesterday but they are too good not to post again today as today’s concerns are the same. Please ‘thread the needle’ carefully as you move through these mid-elevations.



Avalanche Problem 2
  • Normal Caution
    Normal Caution
Normal Caution
Normal Caution means triggering an avalanche is unlikely but not impossible.
More info at Avalanche.org

Other than the scary glide avalanche issue we have a normal caution in the backcountry. The snowpack is stable and sports a solid crust on the surface. Sunshine yesterday softened the surface enough for bone fide springtime corn skiing by the afternoon. On slopes the sun is not warming, there is ‘slide for life’ potential as the surface crust is very slippery. For today, high clouds may limit surface warming – but then again, the sun has a way of poking out in places. 

Cornices? We are still waiting for the Alpine to warm up enough to start seeing natural cornice falls. These giant features are still holding on and looming.

Mon, April 4th, 2016

Sunny skies and warm temperatures greeted many backcountry travelers yesterday. Ridgetop winds were light from the East and downright calm on some ridgelines. Temperatures reached the mid 40’s F in the parking lots and the upper 20’s F on the ridgetops.  

For today we are expecting some high clouds fill in as a frontal band associated with a low pressure just South of the Aleutians heads our way. Winds are expected to increase to the 10-20mph range from the East on the ridgetops and a trace of snow is possible above 1,000′ with a chance for a raindrop or two below 1,000′.  

Tonight into Tuesday we should see the low pressure system move through with light precipitation (rain/snow line ~1,000′) and accumulation in the 1-3″ range. Stay tuned.

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

  Temp Avg (F) Snow (in) Water (in) Snow Depth (in)
Center Ridge (1880′) 34   0   0   118  
Summit Lake (1400′) 32   0   0   37  
Alyeska Mid (1700′) 34   0   0   104  

RIDGETOP 24-hour data (6am – 6am)

  Temp Avg (F) Wind Dir Wind Avg (mph) Wind Gust (mph)
Sunburst (3812′) 25   NE   9   22  
Seattle Ridge (2400′) 28   SE   8   24  
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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.