1/16 Observations & 1/17 Avalanche Outlook

Avalanche Outlook for Friday, January 17, 2014


The Anchorage Avalanche Center advises you to stay out of the mountains on Friday; the avalanche danger may increase to high as the day progresses.  Chinook-like winds may be raging up to ~100mph.  It will likely be physically impossible to travel through the mountains, even if you’re crazy enough to try.  Best efforts will be made to provide a more detailed avalanche outlook for the weekend.

Thursday, January 16, 2014 – Observations – Canyon Road

Time: ~1100-1400

Obvious signs of instability:

  • Small, isolated pockets of reactive wind slab in deposition/catchment areas
  • Short-running, isolated shooting cracks in obviously wind-loaded areas along leeward ridgeline between Peaks 3-4
  • Modest sluffing below leeward peaks


  • Mostly sunny becoming partly cloudy above stratus deck at ~1800′
  • Calm wind with some light breezes at the upper elevations
  • Temps in the mid twenties

Surface conditions:

  • Widespread 2-3″ of fresh, low density snow with little wind affect
  • Up to 1′ fresh snow upper elevation leeward aspects


Today, Canyon Road arguably provided the best day of skiing in the Western Chugach so far this season (for those of us without plane or helicopter access).  Stability was good, the freshies were blower, and there was plenty of vitamin D to be had.  I’ve been under the weather the past few days (no pun intended), but what I found up Canyon Road today was all the healing I needed (granted I’m sure all the wellness herbs/vitamins and extra sleep has helped).

Peak 4 lookin’ fine:


It really is funny that both the Anchorage Avalanche Center and Hatcher Pass Avalanche Center are grassroots, volunteer avalanche centers with little to no funding and the so-called “Chugach Avalanche Center” (actually the Chugach National Forest Avalanche Information Center – CNFAIC – which is also a misnomer) is a roughly $150,000/season operation.  South of Anchorage hasn’t been the place to be yet this season.  Please encourage the CNFAIC to share, and/or support and make an investment in the Anchorage Avalanche Center or other Alaska Avalanche Information Center non-government avalanche centers (Cordova, Haines, Hatcher Pass, and Valdez) that provide for the vast majority of the state of Alaska’s backcountry avalanche information!

Back to the observations, today’s window of bliss will likely be short lived.  For those of us that experienced it, be thankful.  Intense, chinook-like winds (that could possibly surpass 100mph in the upper elevations) are expected to ramp up early tomorrow and persist through Friday night.  This wind event may be followed by rain early Saturday, transitioning to snow later in the day.

As of 8:00pm Thursday, Randoist Harder reports nuking winds off Peak 3.

Thursday, January 16, 2014 – Public Observations – Arctic Valley

*updated 1/19/14

These photos of two human-triggered slab avalanches (or maybe one human triggered with a sympathetic release) that pulled out near the top of Gordon Lyon (NW aspect, ~3800′) resulted in the solo (with dog) skier getting caught and carried, but fortunately not being buried.

Both these areas were suspect last Wednesday (see January 8 observation) and as discussed in recent avalanche outlooks (see January 11, and 12), snowpit data and skiing experience suggests the Eagle River area snowpack has been much more tenuous and suspect than the Front Range snowpack lately.  This trend will likely continue.  You can probably actually thank higher wind speeds in the Front Range for helping to stabilize conditions by building stronger wind slabs, rounding snow grains, and packing the snowpack in place.

While Gordon Lyon looks to be filling in nicely, the NW face is host to a very scary terrain trap (everything funnels into that deep gully at the bottom) which greatly exacerbates the consequences of triggering an avalanche here:


Observers, please make sure you complete all the required fields (marked with an asterisk) when submitting an observation.  Otherwise, it will not go through correctly as was the case with this observation and the observation of the North Bowl approach partial burial from earlier in the season.  If you are worried about being identified, you can make up a fake name or just type jibberish in the blanks.  But, rest assured, it’s not a problem for the AAC to keep its sources confidential if you provide real information…just make a note of it when submitting.

Most importantly, a BIG THANK YOU goes out to the user that submitted these photos (I now know who you are, but can’t find a means of contacting you directly)!!!  Please keep your observations coming, they’re an invaluable asset to the Front Range and Eagle River area avalanche information effort.  However, I do need you to fill out the form or the AAC won’t be properly notified when an observation has been submitted.  If you have been filling out the form correctly, there must be another problem, please contact me directly (mat@anchorageavalanchecenter.org).

If the observer that submitted these photos would like a free ski strap and stickers, donated by Voile, contact me at the aforementioned email.  Thanks again!


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