Anchorage Avalanche Center (AAC) 2012-13 Season Summary
The Anchorage Avalanche Center was born March 2013. It was conceived as a Masters in Outdoor Education thesis project a couple years beforehand and went public this spring, after a non-public trial period earlier in the season, with the support of the Alaska Avalanche Information Center (AAIC) and North American Outdoor Institute (NAOI). Despite the desire and noble efforts of many Southcentral Alaska outdoor professionals over the years, the Front Range and Eagle River area Chugach (Alaska’s most readily accessible avalanche terrain) had been a void in regard to organized snow, weather, and avalanche information for its numerous users. This situation has been quite the dilemma. Thanks to the AAIC, NAOI, and a few dedicated outdoor professionals in the Anchorage area the minimalist model for a recreational avalanche advisory program to serve this heavily used area of the Chugach, envisioned in the aforementioned Masters thesis project, became a reality as the AAC. While operations are still in their infancy, the non-agency and independent AAC is in accordance with the guidelines for a type three avalanche center as set forth by the National Avalanche Center (NAC) and desires to eventually be recognized as such.
The AAC’s advisory area of the Front Range and Eagle River area Chugach had an extremely slow start to the season. We had quite the tease with a big storm at the end of September that brought several inches of snow to sea level and had folks nordic skiing the local hills and touring on the local glaciers earlier than usual. Stoke was high considering this premature, heavy-hitting snow storm and our memories of the epic 2011-2012 season. Unfortunately, an abnormally warm high pressure system followed and I was back to peak-bagging in a t-shirt with no snow in sight (except as preserved on the glaciers) by the second week of October. Short bouts of precip followed but weren’t able to stick due to the lack of an early season base, wind, and relatively long lasting high pressures. The faceting of what did stick, mainly preserved under thin windboard, was quite impressive.
The AAC’s southern advisory area (Front Range) was able to eek out some consistent snowfall (despite the downsloping) in early January as storms pounded the Chugach National Forest Avalanche Information Center’s (CNFAIC) turf, making runs normally in by November ski-able but thin and shark infested. Then, a couple rain events again annhilated our snowpack and made relatively flat approaches and mellow slopes terrifying. The die-hards were accessing slide-for-life conditions by walking flat trail approaches, apparently zambonied by some mysterious force, with crampons on foot and whippet in hand. The northern advisory area (Eagle River) remained very thin until even later in the season due to a more severe downsloping effect. Normally bottomless, un-probeable couloir aprons were a rotten, faceted mess with only a few feet of coverage. However, conditions slowly but surely improved post-January. It’s now late April and the skiing has improved dramatically thanks to a few big late season storms and unseasonably cold temperatures. We had our snorkels out, to avoid choking, and were skiing over the head blower on all aspects for about a two week period late March to early April. Western Chugach enthusiasts may be able to pursue steep, readily accessible goods into late June after all. For now, it’s still unseasonably cold and we’re waiting for the corn so we can get on with the harvest. Here’s to a quality 2013-2014 season and the longevity of the Anchorage Avalanche Center!