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Tue, January 10th, 2017 - 7:00AM
Wed, January 11th, 2017 - 7:00AM
Wendy Wagner
Avalanche risk The Bottom Line

There is a generally  LOW  avalanche danger in the mountains surrounding Turnagain Pass. Although triggering a slab avalanche is unlikely, old hard wind slabs 1-3′ thick sitting on faceted snow remain. With the right amount of force (several people and/or snowmachines) it may not be impossible to get a slab to pop out. Most suspect areas are unsupported slopes in steep rocky terrain. Steep rocky slopes on Southerly aspects are also suspect for wet loose avalanches due to unseasonably warm temperatures at the upper elevations. Additionally, watch for glide cracks and avalanches, as these may be active this week.

Special Announcements


  • TONIGHT –  Backcountry RESCUE discussion by team members of the U.S. Air Force 212th Rescue Squadron (RQS/PJ’s)  and  Alaska Mountain Rescue Group (AMRG). Details  HERE!
  • Thursday January 12th, 6:30pm, basic avalanche awareness and discussion by  CNFAIC on the current snowpack in Turnagain Pass  at the Alaska Avalanche School, Details  HERE.  

* Hatcher Pass continues to have  unstable conditions,  check the Hatcher Pass advisory  HERE  if you are thinking of heading this way. Also – mark your calendars for the  FREE rescue workshop at Hatcher Pass on January 14th.  More info  HERE.  

Tue, January 10th, 2017
Above 2,500'
1 - Low
Avalanche risk
1 - Low
Avalanche risk
Below Treeline
Below 1,000'
1 - Low
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

Blue skies, light winds and an uncharacteristically strong inversion continue to dominate our weather. Temperatures reached over 40F on some ridgetops yesterday, this is hard to believe from the single-digit cold air trapped in valley bottoms and parking lots. We got a report of a wet loose avalanche that ran in steep rocky terrain yesterday (photo below). With warm temperatures again today, these small wet loose slides, under rocks heated from the sun, are possible. If you decide to ride/ski on these steep South facing slopes, watch for surface warming in the top few inches of the snowpack and know that triggering a wet loose avalanche is possible.

Despite the ‘green light’ conditions, remember the snowpack has a poor structure on upper elevation slopes that have not avalanched and were loaded by past winds (mainly North and East aspects). Hard wind slabs sit on faceted snow and/or buried surface hoar. Triggering a more dangerous slab that breaks in these layers is unlikely, however with the warm temperatures and variability across the region, it’s not impossible. Keeping up with safe travel protocol is key (exposing one person at a time, grouping up in safe zones and having an escape route planned).

Small wet loose avalanche on South facing Tincan Proper yesterday. Likely triggered by rocks warming loose snow in very steep rocky terrain directly facing the sun. Thanks to Nick Crews for passing this on to us! Read more HERE.


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 avalanches possible this week:  Continued warm temperatures at the upper elevations may enhance ‘glide’ in the snowpack. Watch for glide cracks to open up and a few may release. This pattern is similar to last week when 3 glide cracks released. Known cracks exist on the South face of Eddie’s, Goldpan (behind the Magnum ridge), East face of Seattle Ridge (Northern end) and Southerly slopes near Johnson Pass.

Tue, January 10th, 2017


Below is a quick look at the snowpack, in terms of how much there is today compared to other years on this day. For snow depth, we are sitting at  the 2nd thinnest January 10th, yet there are only data since 2004 when the sensor was installed. For  SWE (Snow Water Equivalent),  we  are sitting at just over half of what we would normally be for this time of year. It has been 12 days since the last snowfall and it’s clear we are in need of a refresh!


It was a sunny balmy day yesterday in the high elevations – temperatures at 4,000′ were right around 40F. This is quite a contrast to the cold frosty single-digit-air trapped in the valleys. Ridgetop winds yesterday were light and variable and skies were clear.

Overnight, the upper elevation temperatures remained in the high 30’sF while valley bottoms, sitting in the cold pool, are anywhere between -5 and +15F. Temperatures should rise a few degrees during the day, similar to yesterday. Ridgetop winds are expected to be light, 5-10mph from the Northwest and skies clear.

As we keep looking into the weather model “crystal ball” for the next precipitation event, it looks like we could get some cloudy skies and flurries for the weekend.  

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

  Temp Avg (F) Snow (in) Water (in) Snow Depth (in)
Center Ridge (1880′) 24   0 0   34  
Summit Lake (1400′) 10   0   0   11  
Alyeska Mid (1700′) 25   0   0   22  

RIDGETOP 24-hour data (6am – 6am)

  Temp Avg (F) Wind Dir Wind Avg (mph) Wind Gust (mph)
Sunburst (3812′) 39!!   W   4   10  
Seattle Ridge (2400′) 34   variable   3   8  
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
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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.