October 29, 2017

Early Season Avalanche Outlook

We will begin providing regular professional observations and advisories (weekend avalanche outlooks and danger updates) as soon as there’s a sufficient snowpack for reasonable backcountry travel by ski in Chugach State Park (expected sometime in December).

In the meantime, stay tuned to the observations page and social media (Instagram and Facebook) for intermittent updates. 

An early season snowpack can be particularly dangerous: perhaps not as much for large avalanches, but for small avalanches very reactive to human triggers.  Even if there doesn’t seem to be enough snow to produce an avalanche capable of burying a person; small avalanches can prove dangerous (and even fatal) if there are terrain traps capable of channeling debris into a deeper pile, exposed areas where a fall or loss of control could have serious consequences, or exposed rocks and vegetation that one would get trundled through.

Generally, terrain steeper than 30 degrees could produce an avalanche given the weak early season snowpack.  Remote triggers are also possible, and will become more likely during dangerous cycles as the early season snowpack grows (but remains thin and weak).  Be especially careful around “fatter” deposits of wind loaded snow; these will be prevalent along the sides of cross loaded gullies and leeward terrain along ridges and near peaks.  Watch for shooting cracks, listen and feel for “whumphing” (collapsing), and take heed of any sign of recent avalanches.

Here are some observations from early season close-calls to learn from:

October 28, 2017

December 5, 2016

November 3, 2013

*follow the hyperlinked terms to learn more