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Avalanche centers share weekend forecasts

Moderate danger exists at upper elevations above tree line
A human triggered soft slab avalanche from Nov. 15 in Turnagain Pass
A human triggered soft slab avalanche from Nov. 15 in Turnagain Pass(Photo courtesy Chugach National Forest Avalanche Information Center)
Published: Nov. 20, 2021 at 1:38 PM AKST
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Local avalanche centers released weekend forecasts for snow conditions in the mountains. The Chugach National Forest Avalanche Information Center posted their forecast from Lead Forecaster Andrew Schauer at 7 a.m. that listed low avalanche danger below the tree line and moderate danger above 2,500 feet of elevation. In Hatcher Pass, Avalanche Specialist Allie Barker forecasted moderate danger for mid to upper elevations above 2,500 feet.

All forecasts posted by professional avalanche forecasters expire after 24 hours and avalanche safety courses are ongoing throughout the winter for backcountry enthusiasts.

Recent avalanches have been reported in Turnagain Pass. On Seattle Ridge, natural wind slab avalanches released wind-loaded start zones that triggered avalanches less than one foot deep and up to 50 feet wide, which may be large enough to bury a person, according to Schauer’s forecast.

“It will be possible for a person to trigger an avalanche in steep, wind loaded terrain. Wind slabs that formed in the middle of the week are sitting on weak snow, and we may see another round of wind building fresh slabs today. Identify and avoid steep slopes with stiff snow on the surface, which will be most likely just below ridgelines, on steep rollovers, and in gullies,” wrote Schauer.

Recent glide avalanches were reported on slopes named the Library and Raggedtop. The recent Turnagain Pass avalanches occurred between 2,000 and 3,500 feet of elevation and on all aspects.

The Chugach National Forest Avalanche Information Center staff will begin posting daily forecasts today after previously posting six forecasts this winter.

In the Matanuska-Susitna Borough’s Talkeetna Mountains, Barker’s forecast for Hatcher Pass warned that loose dry avalanches will be possible on all aspects on slopes that are steeper than 40 degrees.

“Sluff management will be critical to avoid being swept over rocks or into terrain traps,” wrote Barker.

Barker wrote that numerous human triggered dry loose avalanches have occurred in recent days. Director and Lead Forecaster for the Hatcher Pass Avalanche Center Jed Workman posted a video of a hand-pit dug at 4,000 feet of elevation on Martin Mine, where he noted that no obvious layering was present and described the snow as “sugar.” Workman’s video was recorded on Nov. 19 where he noted that skiing on the snow would be excellent, but that rocks would not be protected and could be hazardous.

“I should expect this snow on steep aspects to sluff pretty quickly so that would be my main concern today is just mitigating my own sluff,” Workman said. “This is all weak snow and my main concern for the future would be a large snow dump landing on top of all this weak snow and this not being able to support it, collapsing, and triggering slab avalanches. So that’s what I’ll be looking at for the future but for today just loose dry avalanches and keeping and eye over my shoulder.”

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