February 21, 2016

Avalanche Danger Update

Dangerous avalanche conditions in Chugach State Park today and Monday.  Due to low visibility, strong wind, and continued snowfall; avalanche danger will continue to increase through Sunday and travel in and around avalanche terrain is not recommended.  By Monday, traveling in and around avalanche terrain safely will require careful snowpack evaluation, cautious route-finding, and conservative decision-making.

Avoid terrain above 2500′ that is steeper than 30 degrees.  Avalanches may be triggered by humans or occur naturally, and it will be important to be mindful of what’s above you: do not expose yourself to avalanche paths; you may be in danger from overhead hazard even if you’re standing on flat ground.  Dangerous avalanche paths that may run naturally exist along the Powerline trail from Glen Alps and pose a danger to hikers, skiers, and bikers.  Other popular trails with overhead avalanche hazard include the Twin Peaks trail from Eklutna Lake, South Fork Eagle River trail past Hanging Valley, O’Malley Gully, Falls Creek, and the Penguin Ridge trail.

Snowfall totals across Chugach State Park so far are hard to estimate and are expected to be extremely variable.  However, a foot or more new snow can be expected in some higher elevation alpine areas with the potential for freshly wind loaded areas that are several feet deep.  The old snow surface consisted of heavily faceted areas, areas of exposed hard crusts, and likely some isolated pockets of surface hoar; weak layers and interfaces exist that could produce dangerously large avalanches given the amount of new snow and wind loading that has occurred since late Friday.  Through Sunday, as the danger continues to increase, there is significant hazard from natural avalanches descending from above down paths that reach into seemingly benign terrain.