Avalanche risk remains elevated and likely to increase further with mid-week storm

FastCast digital headlines for Tuesday, March 21, 2023
Published: Mar. 21, 2023 at 11:38 AM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - The Chugach National Forest Avalanche Information Center (CNFAIC) advises that avalanche danger is “considerable” above elevations above 1,000 feet through 7 a.m. Wednesday.

This means it is likely that a large human-triggered avalanches can occur where strong winds have created sensitive wind slabs up to 1 to 2 inches deep. There is a smaller chance that a human-triggered large avalanche could occur at the interface between last week’s storm snow and the weak surfaces it fell on. Dangerous avalanche conditions and high uncertainty should be good enough reason to travel cautiously today.

Conditions are slightly better in the Summit and Lost Lakes area. “The snowpack in the Summit Lake area is weaker and more problematic than our core advisory area. Yesterday a skier remotely triggered a very large avalanche on Templeton, and similar activity is possible today. Traveling in this zone requires an even more conservative mindset than the core advisory area,” the CNFAIC said.

Since the weekend, observers said five avalanches have occurred naturally as a result of the unstable snowpack from the recent heavy snowfalls. One snowboarder witnessed an avalanche he triggered near Harp and submitted the following to the CNFAIC:

“On the second lap, another party member and I skied further left. I noted increased wind effect on the snow as he skied down. I rode this slope second and felt stiffer snow for the first two turns, which then resolved as I descended. The others in my group noted a slab pulled out approximately 150 yards behind me, however I was unaware of this until I had reached the group. It was initially quite slow moving, but did eventually pick up some momentum. It did not appear to pull out any deeper layers. It was probably D1.5. I was unaware of triggering this until I had reached the group at the bottom of the run. Fortunately we utilized good travel protocol and skied one at a time and met in a safe zone. We did note increasing winds as the day progressed.”

CNFAIC director Wendy Wagner also reports that the Alaska Department of Transportation has not been able to fully plow the parking and rest stop areas along Turnagain Pass following the weekend storms, which has caused problems with recreators trying to park their vehicles along with their snow machines and trailers.

With the forecast details regarding the incoming storm, avalanche danger and associated risks will likely increase for the second half of the week.