Tue, March 17, 2020

Update: State of the Snowpack and CNFAIC operations 

Hello Friends,

In the upcoming weeks, we hope you find time to spend outside on the snow, exercising and enjoying the fresh air and extra daylight. The CNFAIC staff are planning to provide avalanche forecast information daily. We thank you for your continued support and focus on the safety of our community.  Here’s to working together, staying healthy, and enjoying the small things in big places.  

We’re reaching out with a few important updates as things are changing rapidly in the snowpack and in everyone’s daily lives.   

Key Dates and Events

  • March 21 –  Turnagain Takeover: CNFAIC Avalanche Awareness day at Turnagain Pass is cancelled. As an organization that promotes public safety, our first priority is keeping the backcountry community safe and informed. Given the nationwide spread of COVID-19, we are following the recommended guidelines to limit social gatherings. 
  • March 31 Deadline for Alaskans to apply for the PFD. We know that you have many wonderful local causes to choose from when you Pick.Click.Give. We truly appreciate when you choose to support the forecast and give to our nonprofit partner Friends of the Chugach National Forest Avalanche Info Center. BIG THANKS to all of the winter 2019/20 Members and Sponsors! Your generous donations make a difference. Thank you for partnering with us to build an avy savvy backcountry community!   
  • April 15 and 25 The CNFAIC will continue issuing daily forecasts through April 15th, switching to 4 days a week until closing up shop April 25th with our springtime tips. 
  • May 1 Black Diamond’s Block Party in downtown Anchorage. A portion of proceeds from the event will be donated to Friends of the CNFAIC, Hatcher Pass Avalanche Center, and the Alaska Avalanche School. Stay tuned! If this event is canceled, we’ll let you know. 

Thank you to all the supporting sponsors and partners for this event! We are definitely looking forward to collaborating with you all next season!

State of the Snowpack, as of March 17, 2020

March not only introduces us back to daylight, but it also is a transition time for the snowpack. This month alone there have been many close calls and very sadly, one fatality, in the region. Our deepest condolences to the victim’s family, friends, and everyone affected by the fatal avalanche at Hatcher Pass. 

Avalanches throughout Southcentral Alaska have been large and small, winter-time cold snow slabs, and springtime wet avalanches.  This is also the time of year when folks often take advantage of the sunshine and long days to venture deeper into the mountains on big rides or traverses and can encounter vastly different snowpack issues in different areas, aspects and elevations. Please remember to Get the Forecast for the Turnagain and Hatcher Pass areas. 

In this month to date, significant avalanche incidents and near misses that we know of are available for your review on our Observations page. They include:

Chugach National Forest:

  • March 5th, Lynx Creek near Johnson Pass. Two snowmachiners triggered a large slab avalanche while riding on a slope at the same time. The two riders were able to ride out of harm’s way.
  • March 11th, Crow Pass trail enroute to cabin. A ski touring group turned around due to deteriorating weather and natural avalanches in the area with one covering the trail.
  • March 12th, Raven Headwall north of Girdwood. A solo skier on the last leg of the Eklutna traverse was caught, carried, buried to their shoulders. They were able to self rescue and were uninjured. 

Raven Headwall skier triggered avalanche, one ski can be seen in debris around 200 yds uphill. 3.12.20 

Hatcher Pass (via Hatcher Pass Avalanche Center):

  • March 9th, Road Run avalanche accident. Very tragically, a 17 yr old snowboarder was caught, buried and killed in an avalanche near the Mile 16 road run at Hatcher Pass. The final report is currently being compiled by Hatcher Pass Avalanche Center.
  • March 12th, Moose Creek drainage. Large avalanche remotely triggered by a snowmachiner from far below the slope. No one was caught.
  • March 12th, Hatcher Pass Road was closed due to large avalanches releasing, with one sending debris onto the road.

Snowmachine remote triggered avalanche in Moose Creek drainage near Hatcher Pass. 3.12.20. Photo: Travis Smith

Chugach State Park:

  • March 11th, Ship Creek drainage. A Ptarmigan hunter triggered a large avalanche, was fully buried and able to self rescue and was not seriously injured.
  • March 12th, North Bowl area South Fork Eagle River. A group of backcountry tourers remotely triggered a very large avalanche. No one was caught.
  • March 14th, Goathead Couloir (MP 107 Seward Hwy). Two ski mountaineers narrowly escaped large natural wet avalanche activity in the couloir.
  • March 14th, The Wedge above Powerline Pass. A skier triggered a three foot slab avalanche in steep rocky terrain. Skier on slope able to ski off slab and no one caught.

Remote triggered avalanche near North Bowl (South Fork Eagle River). 3.12.20

Thank you for sharing your experiences, Friends! 

The reason we know about all of these incidents is because the people involved have had the courage to share them. Every avalanche involving people has a human story behind it. These stories can impact others exponentially in a positive way; giving us more experience to draw from as we take on our own endeavours in the mountains. Encouraging the culture of sharing is something the CNFAIC staff strives for. Looking at our observations page and all the cumulative shared information, it is clear that others in the backcountry community agree!  Big thanks to all of you who take the time and contribute for the overall safety of our community.  

We hope to see you all out in the mountains! However, it’s important to remember that the snowpack will keep changing, avalanches don’t know about the coronavirus, and it’s possible that you might be paying less attention. Keep an eye on yourselves and your backcountry partners – there’s a good chance we all have extra human factors in the mix.  @chugachavy #playsafe #knowbeforeyougo #gettheforecast

Surface hoar covers much of the terrain in the forecast area. Beautiful and sparkling but potentially the St. Patrick’s Day buried surface hoar layer if it is covered up today by new snow!