December 25, 2014

New snow and wind this week have elevated the avalanche danger in Chugach State Park.

Wind slabs will exist in the upper elevations above ~3000′ primarily along leeward ridge lines, near peaks, and on gully sidewalls.  Wind slabs may also be found in the mid elevations (below 3000′), especially along gully sidewalls.  Use caution where the snow appears deeper, firmer, looks bulbous or fat in appearance, and exhibits red flags like cracking and whumphing or collapsing.  Recent avalanches, however small they may be, are another obvious indicator of unstable and potentially dangerous snow.

Keep in mind the persistent weak layers deeper in the snowpack: an intact layer of buried surface hoar, facets on crusts, and depth hoar at the ground.  New snow and wind this week has loaded and further stressed these layers.  Red flags to danger associated with these deeper instabilities will not be as obvious as instabilities closer to the surface, like the wind slab problem mentioned above.  You will need to dig into the snowpack, look at the layers, and conduct stability tests of your own to more thoroughly assess the danger!  Don’t know how to do that?  Check out the educational opportunities offered locally through the Alaska Avalanche School and Backcountry Babes.

Play safe and happy holidays!

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