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Wed, January 30th, 2019 - 7:00AM
Thu, January 31st, 2019 - 7:00AM
Heather Thamm
Avalanche risk The Bottom Line

The avalanche danger remains  CONSIDERABLE  on slopes above 2,000′. Human triggered slabs 2-4′ thick are likely on slopes steeper than 35 degrees. These slabs can be remotely triggered from below or along a ridgeline. Triggering a lingering wind slab or large cornice is possible today and has the potential to initiate a larger avalanche below. Cautious route finding and conservative decision-making will be essential for a safe day in the mountains.  MODERATE avalanche danger exists in the treeline zone where triggering a slab 1-2′ thick is possible.

SUMMIT LAKE / JOHNSON PASS:    Poor snowpack structure and multiple weak layers in the snowpack exist in this zone. Triggering a slab 1-3′ deep is likely in the Alpine on recently wind-loaded slopes.

Special Announcements
  • Remember the Friends of the Chugach National Forest Avalanche Center  is an official  Pick. Click. Give. organization.  When you apply for your PFD please consider supporting the CNFAIC. We rely heavily on your support, thank you to all of our donors, past, present and future!
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Wed, January 30th, 2019
Above 2,500'
3 - Considerable
Avalanche risk
2 - Moderate
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
  • Persistent Slabs
    Persistent Slabs
  • Certain
    Very Likely
  • Historic (D4-5)
    Very Large (D3)
    Large (D2)
    Small (D1)
Persistent Slabs
Persistent Slab avalanches are the release of a cohesive layer of snow (a slab) in the middle to upper snowpack, when the bond to an underlying persistent weak layer breaks. Persistent layers include: surface hoar, depth hoar, near-surface facets, or faceted snow. Persistent weak layers can continue to produce avalanches for days, weeks or even months, making them especially dangerous and tricky. As additional snow and wind events build a thicker slab on top of the persistent weak layer, this avalanche problem may develop into a Deep Persistent Slab.

Likelihood of Avalanches
Terms such as "unlikely", "likely", and "certain" are used to define the scale, with the chance of triggering or observing avalanches increasing as we move up the scale. For our purposes, "Unlikely" means that few avalanches could be triggered in avalanche terrain and natural avalanches are not expected. "Certain" means that humans will be able to trigger avalanches on many slopes, and natural avalanches are expected.

Size of Avalanches
Avalanche size is defined by the largest potential avalanche, or expected range of sizes related to the problem in question. Assigned size is a qualitative estimate based on the destructive classification system and requires specialists to estimate the harm avalanches may cause to hypothetical objects located in the avalanche track (AAA 2016, CAA 2014). Under this schema, "Small" avalanches are not large enough to bury humans and are relatively harmless unless they carry people over cliffs or through trees or rocks. Moving up the scale, avalanches become "Large" enough to bury, injure, or kill people. "Very Large" avalanches may bury or destroy vehicles or houses, and "Historic" avalanches are massive events capable of altering the landscape.

Signal Word Size (D scale) Simple Descriptor
Small 1 Unlikely to bury a person
Large 2 Can bury a person
Very Large 3 Can destroy a house
Historic 4 & 5 Can destroy part or all of a village
More info at Avalanche.org

Strong winds and new snow over the last two days has added additional weight to an already stressed out snowpack. A layer of buried surface hoar sits 1-3’ below the surface in Turnagain Pass and 2-5’ deep in Girdwood Valley. This layer has been very reactive this week. Yesterday debris from recent natural avalanches was seen on the SE facing slopes of Seattle Ridge. This past weekend nine remote triggered avalanches occurred in Seattle Creek drainage and many were triggered from the ridge above. 

What makes this buried surface hoar different from previous layers this winter? This particular layer is more widespread, larger in size, and has been found intact along ridge lines. This means a human can triggering a slab remotely and more potential exists for a slab to propagate across an entire slope. Strong winds have created variability within the slab which means there are more trigger spots – thinner areas of the slab where the weight of a person or snow machine could collapse the weak layer. 

South of Turnagain – Johnson Pass/Summit Lake zone: Areas south of Turnagain Pass harbor a thinner, weaker snowpack with multiple weak layers present, including buried surface hoar.  An avalanche triggered in these zones could step down into deeper weak layers.   See video here  of a snowpit in the Silvertip area south of Turnagain Pass, that clearly demonstrates the step down potential. 

Unfortunately this type of avalanche problem is not going away quickly. Choosing low consequence terrain and keeping slope angles below 30 degrees is a safe way to avoid this problem. Also keep in mind:

  1. Whumpfing and shooting cracks may not be present until the entire slope releases.
  2. The bigger the terrain more potential for a larger more connected avalanche. 
  3. Avoid being in the runout zone of steeper terrain above

Recent natural avalanche on SE aspect of Seattle Ridge seen yesterday (1/29/18) just South of the Seattle Ridge Uptrack. 


Snowpit on Tincan yesterday (1/29/18) shows the buried surface hoar layer 2′ below the surface. This “MLK BSH”, buried on Martin Luther King Day, is our primary layer of concern across the region. 

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

WIND SLABS: Wind slabs formed yesterday by strong winds and 6-12” of new snow on Monday may still be reactive on slopes steeper than 35 degrees.  More concerning is the possibility of triggering a smaller wind slab that steps down into the weaker snow below, causing a larger more dangerous avalanche.  

CORNICES: Large cornices are present along many ridgelines across the region. These ridgtop hazards can be tricky to see and can break further onto a ridge than expected. Triggering a cornice could initiate a large avalanche on the slope below. Watch for other groups and avoid traveling on or underneath these unpredictable hazards. 

Wed, January 30th, 2019

Yesterday: Skies were overcast with a mix of rain and snow across the region. Rain/snow line was near 1000′. Portage Valley received an 1 € of rain at lower elevations, an estimated 12 € of snow in the upper elevations. Alyeska midway station recorded .33 € SWE (1-2 € wet snow) and Turnagain Pass DOT RWIS station recorded 0.1 € SWE (trace of wet snow along the road.) Ridge top winds were 15-30mph from the East.

Today: Overcast skies and with a chance for 1-2 € of snow. East ridge top winds 15-30mph will decrease to Light and shift to the North by this evening. Above freezing temperatures at sea level will dip into the upper-20Fs tonight. Temperatures at ridgetops should decrease into the mid to low-20F’s.

Tomorrow: Mostly sunny skies are in the forecast tomorrow. Moderate Northwest outflow winds will build in the morning 15-30mph along ridge tops. Temperatures will be in the mid-20F’s. No precipitation is expected.

 *Seattle Ridge weather station was heavily rimed and the anemometer (wind sensor) was destroyed.   We are currently working to replace it.  

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

  Temp Avg (F) Snow (in) Water (in) Snow Depth (in)
Center Ridge (1880′) 34   trace   0 59  
Summit Lake (1400′) 34   0 0   23  
Alyeska Mid (1700′) 33   2   .34   47  

RIDGETOP 24-hour data (6am – 6am)

  Temp Avg (F) Wind Dir Wind Avg (mph) Wind Gust (mph)
Sunburst (3812′) 25   ENE   15   46  
Seattle Ridge (2400′) 29   *N/A   *N/A   *N/A  
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.