September 27, 2015

Early Season Avalanche Advisory & Outlook

Mid September brought accumulating snowfall to the upper elevations of Chugach State Park.  This snow event was followed by about four days of clear and cold weather, which likely facilitated the development of our upper elevation snowpack’s first basal weak layers.  It’s hard to tell how Chugach State Park’s infant snowpack is standing up to the warmer temperatures and rain of this weekend.  The snowpack is likely building above 3000-4000′, with increasing avalanche danger.  At the mid to lower elevations, what little snow there was has likely been washed away.

However, an unseasonably strong cold front is expected to reach the Anchorage area Tuesday causing temperatures to drop and changing the rain to snow with the potential for accumulating snowfall down to sea level.  This will definitely elevate the upper elevation avalanche hazard, which has likely seen relatively steady snowfall since this weekend began, and has the potential to create our first mid to lower elevation avalanche hazard for the season.

Whether you’re hoping to get out and play on the new snow, or just want to go for a walk in the mountains, be mindful of snow conditions and avalanche danger where you’re traveling.  Getting caught in an avalanche in the early season can be particularly brutal, even with a low volume of snow, due to exposed rocks and vegetation that can exacerbate trauma.

If you’re not already “avy savvy,” or need to brush up on your avalanche skills, check

for statewide learning and training opportunities that will help you play safe in Alaska’s vast winter wonderland and enjoy it to the fullest!

As soon as the snowpack is ripe for riding the slopes and reasonable winter backcountry travel via skis, the Anchorage Avalanche Center will begin providing regular advisories and observations.  In the meantime, continue to check back for intermittent updates as warranted by conditions.

As a heads up to those of you heading to the typical early season haunts at Hatcher Pass and Crow Pass, avalanches have already been observed in these areas from the mid-September upper elevation snow event.  These areas have likely seen relatively steady snowfall since the weekend began, and snowfall is expected to continue until midweek.  A variety of potentially avalanche prone layers and interfaces were observed last week including crusts, surface hoar, and facets.  Avalanches were also observed that had released on the ground, which was still relatively warm and well lubricated from rain and meltwater.

When skies clear and the mountains beckon in their fresh, white, winter attire; make sure you are prepared for potential avalanche danger!