Saturday, February 1, 2014
Issued at 7am (expires in 24hrs):
In most reasonably accessible areas, not including upper elevation (above ~4500′) “extreme” terrain, the avalanche danger is expected to be low to moderate. The persistent slab problem still exists but is losing energy and has gained strength; it’s not easily triggered. Field work this week and in recent weeks suggests it’s more of an issue in the Eagle River area than Front Range. It should be limited to the upper elevations (above ~3500′). Small wind slabs may also still be possible to trigger in upper elevation (above ~4000′) terrain near peaks and ridge crests.
The most noteworthy hazard for this weekend is the slide-for life conditions in the Western Chugach; falling could be a disaster…
Observations from Friday, January 31, 2014 evidenced little change from earlier in the week. The surface crust is rotting out (faceting). Surface hoar is trying to grow, but its size and distribution has been limited due to wind and slower growth on the widespread melt-freeze/rain crust surface.
The warm-up, meltdown conditions from earlier this week and last has refrozen into a stout crust in most areas. Otherwise, the warm weather decreased the temperature gradient which had a stabilizing effect on the snowpack. With the return to more normal January temperatures and a hard re-freeze, the snowpack has stabilized significantly.
The problem consists of old, buried melt-freeze/rain crusts with faceted layers above and below. Stability tests and skiing experience suggests the problem is getting harder and harder to trigger and has lost a significant amount of energy. The problem is most suspect in upper elevation (above ~3500′) terrain and in the Eagle River area. Between ~3000-3500′, the problem (mostly observed in the Eagle River area) consists of a stout, thick melt-freeze crust/slab on top of previously moistened facets to the ground.
Expect this problem to be small and “pockety” and only an issue in upper elevation (above ~4000′) terrain near peaks and ridge crests.
Mostly sunny skies with temperatures in the upper 20s and generally light winds. A temperature inversion is in place.
High pressure has established itself over the area, accompanied by mostly clear skies and temperatures at or slightly above normal for January, and is expected to remain in place until at least the middle of next week if not longer. For the weekend and until early next week, the weather is expected to remain much the same as today – with an inversion, mountain temps in the upper 20s, and generally light winds. By the early to mid of next week pressure gradients may increase and could lead to significant wind events.
The short term weather is expected to have little effect on the snowpack and avalanche danger. Avalanche danger and concerns shouldn’t change, and will be on the decline, until the next noteworthy weather event. At this point, this next event seems likely to be wind-specific. With little loose snow and a snowpack capped by a stout crust, wind isn’t expected to do much further damage or raise the avalanche danger considerably.
Stay tuned as a better picture of future weather develops, that will hopefully include SNOW in the forecast sooner rather than later…
Shout out to Anchorage Avalanche Center sponsors:
Anchorage Avalanche Center sponsors help make this organized avalanche information program for the Westernmost Chugach, Alaska’s most readily accessible avalanche terrain and Anchorage’s backyard mountain playground, possible.
They can also help you make the most out of what you may currently be perceiving as the worst conditions.
Voile skis are lightweight, extremely durable, reasonably priced, made in the USA, and will help you make the most fun out of any snow conditions. The stiff, solid, and rockered Vectors are handling the slide-for-life just fine and are helping me to maintain sanity.
CAMP‘s line of ultra light ski-mountaineering equipment (like crampons and axes) makes navigating current conditions possible, safer, and pleasant as can be. The CAMP XLC390 crampon has been essential lately.
I haven’t been going out lately without my Black Diamond Whippet either; a highly recommended tool for conditions like this and general ski-mountaineering. BD has also stepped up its apparel game considerably now offering a range of high performance, technical clothing.
If you’re looking to buy local, checkout Ski AK in Spenard. The ski techs there do GREAT work that I’m happier with than anywhere else in town. The shop has a cool vibe and spectrum of excellent gear.