Avalanche danger upgraded to considerable at all elevations in Turnagain Pass

An avalanche fully buried a rider who was unharmed in Turnagain Pass on Thursday.
An avalanche fully buried a rider who was unharmed in Turnagain Pass on Thursday.(Photo courtesy Chugach National Forest Avalanche Information Center)
Published: Dec. 5, 2021 at 2:23 PM AKST
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Avalanche danger was upgraded by the Chugach National Forest Avalanche Information Center to considerable at all elevations on Sunday.

The forecast posted by forecaster Andrew Schauer reported that 11 human-triggered avalanches were observed between Dec. 2 and Dec 3. Schauer wrote that no avalanches were reported on Saturday. However, a winter storm warning from the National Weather Service precipitated the upgrade to considerable at all elevations, not just those above the tree line.

“Active weather begins to load an already dangerous snowpack. Strong winds will arrive today ahead of an approaching storm, building sensitive wind slabs that will be easily triggered by a person and will possibly release naturally. It is likely even a small wind slab around a foot deep triggered near the surface could step down to persistent weak layers buried 2-4′ deep, creating large avalanches. Be cautious,” Schauer wrote.

A forecast for the Chugach National Forest is posted daily by the center, and forecasts expire 24 hours after they are posted.

Schauer said that the first problem for backcountry enthusiasts in Turnagain Pass would be a wind slab, followed by the potential problem of persistent slabs.

In the Matanuska-Susitna Borough, Hatcher Pass Avalanche Center Director and Avalanche Specialist Jed Workman wrote that avalanche danger was moderate at mid to upper elevations, and low at lower elevations below 2,500 feet. Workman reported that numerous dry, loose avalanches had broken loose throughout the week, as well as two small wind slab avalanches. Loose, dry avalanches were the main potential problem reported by Workman in Hatcher Pass.

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