December 24, 2016

Weekend Avalanche Outlook

Avalanche danger throughout Chugach State Park will increase due to strong winds.  Please keep in mind that wind is, generally, the #1 driver of avalanche danger in Chugach State Park.  Strong winds are expected to persist through Sunday (Christmas Day).  The strong winds will be accompanied by drastically warmer temperatures than what we’ve been experiencing lately, and this could further contribute to avalanche danger.

There is plenty of loose snow available for transport by the strong winds this weekend.  Wind loading will create fresh wind slabs, primarily on upper elevation leeward terrain.  Areas expected to be the most problematic are cross loaded gullies, lee ridge lines, and lee aspects of peaks.  The strong winds will be from the typical southeast flow that downslopes the Western Chugach near Anchorage.  Red flags include recent avalanches, shooting cracks, “whumphing” or collapsing, hollow sounding-feeling snow (dense wind slab over looser, weaker snow), and bulbous or fatter areas of wind deposited snow.

The early season snowpack in Chugach State Park is extremely weak with numerous persistent weak layers (where there is actually a snowpack).

South of Anchorage, the mountains from Turnagain Arm through the eastern Kenai Peninsula will be impacted with wind and HEAVY SNOW from this same storm system.  The avalanche situation there is much different.  Check with the Chugach National Forest Avalanche Info Center if you’re considering heading south this holiday weekend.