January 30, 2017

Avalanche Danger Update

*Dangerous Avalanche Conditions*

Strong winds today (predominantly from the E to S, especially SE at upper elevations, but terrain channels wind differently throughout the park) are wind loading leeward aspects.  Upper elevation terrain near peaks and along ridges and gully sidewalls are expected to develop very sensitive wind slabs, and the wind and cross loading may stress larger and more dangerous persistent slabs – which from recent observations have been identified as a serious and widespread problem throughout the park.

Natural avalanches are possible, and human triggered avalanches are likely.  Cautious route-finding, conservative decision-making, and careful snowpack evaluation will be essential for traveling safely in and around avalanche terrain.  Small avalanches may occur in many areas, large avalanches in specific areas, and very large avalanches in isolated areas.

Traveling in and around avalanche terrain is discouraged if you do not possess an advanced level of backcountry travel and avalanche assessment skills.


Recognize red flags of avalanche danger.  Acknowledge increased danger from new snow and wind.  Be on the lookout for recent avalanches.  “Whumphing,” or collapsing, and shooting cracks are glaring red flags.

Be mindful of terrain traps, and exposure to overhead avalanche danger.  Avalanches triggered in the upper elevations have the potential to run into lower elevation, even flat, terrain.  Many trails in Chugach State Park cross dangerous avalanche paths (including Penguin Ridge, Falls Creek, Rabbit Creek, Powerline, O’Malley Gully, South Fork Eagle River, and Iditarod-Crow Pass).  A basic level of avalanche awareness, such as that gained through a free or low-cost class, will help you be able to identify problem areas.


Many avalanche accidents that have happened in Anchorage’s backyard of Chugach State Park could have been prevented by basic avalanche awareness.  If you don’t have this level of awareness, here are some online resources to help you start the learning process.  There are also numerous options for getting a real avalanche education locally.  Many of these learning opportunities are even FREE.  Here’s info on a great opportunity for a full day of learning at Glen Alps (main Flattop trailhead) on Saturday, February 11.

Chugach State Park now has a base for reasonable alpine touring.  Keep in mind that hazards such as superficially covered rocks and vegetation exist.

*click hyperlinks for further info