December 7, 2014

Warm temperatures, strong winds, and a continued lack of snowfall aren’t helping the thin to non-existent snowpack and prospects for decent skiing and snowboarding in the Western Chugach.  While there’s still not enough snow to warrant regular observations and information, there is enough snow to warrant avalanche concerns.  Avalanche problems existing in the mid to upper elevations (above 2500′) will primarily be in the form of wind slabs (possibly to size D2 – click here for glossary) and small wet avalanches (possibly to size D1.5).

If you’ve found enough snow to ride, you’re likely on a wind loaded feature.  Be on the lookout for clues as to unstable and reactive wind slabs (cracking, collapsing, recent avalanches, hollow sounding-feeling snow).  Climbers and hikers: beware of climbing and traversing areas where there’s more than a few inches of snow, especially if that snow has coalesced into a slab whether it be supportable or breakable-punchy.  Be mindful of the consequences of an avalanche even if it’s only small enough to knock you over, cause you to lose control, and suffer injury.  Keep terrain traps in mind.

As conditions are more ideal for climbing (ice, mixed, alpine) than riding (skiing or snowboarding), be wary of unstable snow on ledges and other terrain features that may harbor wind slabs or snow susceptible to a small wet avalanche (especially on solar aspects with the warm temperatures of late) that could cause you to fall where there’s exposure.

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