March 29, 2017

Avalanche Danger Update

Issued Wednesday, March 29, 2017 at 11:00am.  This is a general backcountry (recreational) avalanche advisory for Chugach State Park with the Front Range and South Fork Eagle River areas as the core advisory zones.

Avalanche danger around Anchorage has increased dramatically with several inches of new snow from Tuesday-Wednesday.  Reactive human triggered avalanches were reported as early as Tuesday afternoon from the minor snow accumulation Monday-Tuesday, indicating the weakness of the old snow surface (that had developed from sitting under generally cold and clear conditions for weeks).

Please be aware that even as snowfall decreases and ceases, avalanche danger is expected to increase further or at least remain elevated through the week due to warming temperatures and increasing wind.  Avalanche conditions this week could be the most dangerous so far this season.

Remember that many popular trails in Chugach State Park cross potentially dangerous avalanche paths.  You can be threatened by avalanche hazard from above even if you’re on flat, snow-free ground.  Examples of particularly dangerous trails that cross dangerous avalanche paths include (but are not limited to): Penguin Ridge, Falls Creek, Flattop, Powerline, and O’Malley Gully.  Other trails, like Bird Ridge, may not cross dangerous avalanche paths but are surrounded by dangerous terrain that has claimed lives in the past.

Make sure you know how to identify avalanche terrain, and have at least a basic understanding of how to assess the hazard.  You can typically get such level of “avalanche awareness” through a free or low-cost class.  Unfortunately, such opportunities are few and far between in the spring.  So if you missed the many offerings earlier this season, make sure you take advantage of the numerous free and low-cost courses that will be offered in the fall.  You can start learning with some free online resources here.  Getting avalanche education is a big part of recreating safely on your vast and wondrous public land in Alaska, and being able to enjoy the mountains during the snow season will greatly enhance your life.

Here are links to further information on fatal avalanche accidents in Chugach State Park.  You can learn from others’ mishaps.