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Monday-Thursday 1/23-1/26

Mon, Jan 23, 2017 at 8AM

Expires: Thu, Jan 26, 2017

Windslab feels stiff and punchy. Improve your FUN and reduce your risk of triggering an avalanche by avoiding windslab on steep slopes. Getting raked through rocks with a bunch of washer machines is not FUN.

Above 2,500ft Moderate

1,800 to 2,500ft Low

Below 1,800ft Low

Degrees of Avalanche Danger ?

1. Low
2. Moderate
3. Considerable
4. High
5. Extreme

Avalanche Danger Rose ?

Avalanche Problems ?

Problem Details



 Above 1800′
Aspect: Shifting winds have stripped and loaded (top and cross-loaded) all aspects 
Ridges, gullies, steep unsupported bowls, rollovers
Likelihood (Human Triggered): 
Danger Trend: 
Forecaster Confidence: 

Mostly above 2500′
Steep rocky slopes where facets exist under old and between windslab, especially interior of Thompson Pass
Likelihood (Human Triggered): 
Small – Large
Danger Trend: 
Forecaster Confidence: 

Sensitivity: Non-reactive, Stubborn, Responsive, Touchy
Distribution: Isolated, Specific, Widespread
Likelihood: Unlikely, Possible, Likely, Nearly Certain
Size: Small, Large, Very Large (size scale <here>)
Danger Trend: Increasing, Steady, Decreasing
Forecaster Confidence: Good, Fair, Poor


SNOWPACK DISCUSSION: Thompson Pass and most of the upper elevation terrain is scoured and wind textured from outflow north wind.

The best snow is found in wind protected valleys where the Jan.13-17 snow has settled to 6-18″. The cold, dry air has promoted near surface faceting.

Wind Scoured Pass

Wind Scoured Pass

If you are venturing into the wind affected areas, expect hard windslab on lee features.  Temperatures in the single digits F at Thompson Pass and inland slow the bonding of new windslab to old surfaces.

Large whumphs reported in the last week, remind us we cannot fully trust the snowpack where weak structure still exists. Especially inland of MP 33, we have to stay suspicious of a persistent slab problem.  There remains the slim possibility of large loads, such as multiple machines and riders in steep rocky terrain, triggering a surprising avalanche that could injure or kill.

The forecast weather will likely bring cold snow over the various bed surfaces of faceted sugar old snow, surface hoar, and windslab. As the residual northerly outflow winds are turned around to onshore southerlies, expect a warm slab of new snow sitting over the weaker interface beneath. Expect poor stability by Wednesday.

Find more photos and observations at the bottom of the page. Sharing your observations creates an informed community that everyone benefits from at some point.

Recent Avalanche Activity

Some pockets of windslab have popped off naturally in the last few days since the storm ended January 17.

coastal-zone-iconMaritime (Coastal):

  • Dec. 19: Wind slab/cornice releases during the day above the airport and on the roll-overs below South Odyssey Couloir
Windslab release off ridge above airport

Windslab release off ridge above airport ran to alders (lines mark crown and toe of debris)

  • Dec. 17: Reported mid-storm debris below the N face of Benzine sliding into the popular ski line. Many others seen in steep gullies.

intermountain-zone-iconInter-Mountain (Transitional):  

  • Dec. 19: Several new wind slab releases in windloaded gullies below Max High
Release Near Max High

Release Near Max High

Old debris seen day before off summit of Max High, but today wind slabs peeling out in loaded gullies.

Old, storm related avalanche ran off summit of Max High (see arrow), but Thursday’s wind slabs peeled out in loaded gullies below (see crown lines).

  • Dec 18: Max High Peak had some old-ish (mid-storm?) debris below the SE aspect at about MP 35 (see Trevor’s map link below for location)

interior-zone-iconContinental (Interior):

MP 51 Boulder Creek/Rice Mountain Release to ground.

Dec 19: MP 51 Boulder Creek/Rice Mountain Release to ground. Possibly storm initiated, for debris in gully seemed filled in.

Recent Weather

WEATHER FORECAST for NEXT 24 HRS at 3,000 ft:
Temperature Forecast (Min/Max *F):  -15 / 25
Ridgetop Wind Forecast (direction/mph): NE-SE / 25/10
Snowfall (in):  4-6
PAST 24 hours
Ferry Terminal Thompson Pass
Average Wind Speed (mph) / Direction   5 / E  25 / NE
Max Wind Gust (mph) / Direction  16 / ENE  35 / NE
Temperature Min / Max (*F)  12 / 19  -15 / 0

Weather Forecast:      Snow coming for the foreseeable future in the upper elevations. Above freezing temperatures possible at sea level from Tuesday afternoon through Thursday afternoon. Starting Tuesday a foot of heavy wet snow at Thompson Pass possible by Wednesday. A total of three feet of new snow may accumulate at Thompson Pass by Saturday afternoon.

Additional Info & Media

SNOW HISTORY: Valdez 1/23 AM Thompson Pass 1/22 AM
24 Hour Snow / Water Equiv. 0” /0′ 0″ /0.0″
Storm Snow /Water Equiv. (1/13-1/17) 46.4” /3.2″ 54″ /4.2″
Current Snow Depth 37″ 30″ (wind scoured)
January Snow / Water Equiv. 46.9″ /3.2″ 54″ / 4.2″
Total Winter Snowfall / Water Equiv. 142.8″ / 13” 197″ / 18.6″
Snowload in Valdez 47 lbs/sq. ft.


Nicks Valley at 4200 ft (in): 0″
Upper Tsaina at 1750 ft (in): 0″
Sugarloaf at 550 ft (in): 0″
SNOW DEPTH & WATER SURVEY (1/3/2017) Depth Snow Water Equivalent
Milepost 2.5 Valdez  22.7″  4.7″
Milepost 18 27.9″ 5.9″
Milepost 29 Worthington Flats 44″ 9.9″
Milepost 37 Tsaina River bridge 33.8″ 5.6″
This survey is done the first week of each month.

Weather Quicklinks:

  • NWS forecast for Northeast Prince William Sound <here>
  • NOAA NWS spot forecast for Thompson Pass <here>
  • Thompson Pass RWIS weather station <here>
  • MP 30 Nicks (Happy) Valley weather station at 4200 feet <here> (scroll to Nicks Valley)
  • Valdez Glacier UAF weather station at 6600 feet <data here> <map here>
  • Further weather resources <here>


  • coastal-zone-iconMaritime (Coastal) – from the Port of Valdez to Thompson Pass, all waters flowing into Valdez Arm and everything south of Marshall Pass.
  • intermountain-zone-iconInter-mountain (Transitional) – between Thompson Pass and Rendezvous Lodge.
  • interior-zone-iconContinental (Interior) – the dry north side of the Chugach (north of 46 Mile, including the Tonsina River).

Photo of Thompson Pass


Interactive Map of Valdez Forecast Areas w/ Many Resource Layers (Trevor Grams)


Run Map of Thompson Pass Area (Sean Wisner) (2MB download)
VAC Run Map Thompson Pass

NEWS: Our region is “one of the snowiest places on earth” – Serendipity / Rendezvous snowfall record set in 1963 <here>.

Free smart phone avalanche forecasts at:

Posted in VAC Forecasts.


Tell us what you're seeing out there.

48 Comments on Valdez

KSalys said : Report Subscribe yesterday

Wind protected areas up around 2500' near Benzene were similar to protected areas up near Francis and Comstock: 180-240cm snow depth, boot top ski penetration (2-3 inches of new from Jan 20th; ~1 foot of decomposing snow from Jan 15-17 on a firmer/supportive layer from Jan 13-14). Averaging about 80cm on top of the wind board from our early Jan wind event. Variable cloud cover and temps in the teens, but solar warming steep, rocky faces led to to some loose sluffs and scattered rollerballs. Elevations below 1000' had a thin melt-freeze skin in areas.

  • 21/01/2017
Sarah Carter
Sarah_Carter said : Report Subscribe 2 days ago

Moonlight 8F, clear skies with some cloud building to the south, no new precip. Snow down low was 10" of soft settling powder over the raincrust from January 15. Mid pack is old windslab with facets below. Up higher, the north and south wind has scoured down to rocks and left a 2-10" windcrust over softer settling storm snow. Not super desirable turns.

  • 21/01/2017
KSalys said : Report Subscribe 3 days ago

Comstock/Francis: Up to approx. 3200' below Comstock and Francis. Recent (likely Thursday) natural windslab release on western aspect loaded by outflow winds. Incredibly variable snow conditions. About a foot of snow (facets and decomposing) over 3-4cm ice crust (from Sat rain) that thinned and disappeared around 2000'. No whumphing (settling) or shooting cracks on new slabs (1F to P), but definitely scarily supportive in steeps. Unsupported slabs would be questionable. Bonding to weak, snow below under way. Everything is thinly covered...faces and basins showing a lot of rock. Continuous moderate outflow winds down low at the valley floor with calm to light winds higher up. 11-12*F down low created the impression of an inversion higher up, but lack of wind chill created this impression. Clouds began to build through the day and flatten the light. A couple of flakes fell in the afternoon.

  • 20/01/2017
Taylor B said : Report Subscribe 4 days ago

Toured up the Worthington Glacier to an elevation of 5,500ft along the divided of the Hoodoo Glacier just west of Girls MTN. The views from the top of the divide revealed a depressing scoured Chugach Mountain Range from all the winds:( But, we still found some nice snow to ski and ride:) Cold temps: -19C with 10-20 km/h NE winds. Average height of snowpack (probed) between 3,500ft and 5,500ft was 140-200cm. No whumphing noted, propagation prevalent in wind affected areas. Exposed alpine/glacial ice on many of the north faces including the Catchers Mitt! Multiple recent D1 avalanches, multiple old D2 avalanches that probably ran during the brunt of the latest wind event. Glacier travel was challenging with many crevasses still open or poorly bridged, the Hoodoo looked especially horrendous.

  • 19/01/2017
KSalys said : Report Subscribe 4 days ago

Tour up Small Creek: 4*F at the car and gusty winds out of the NE. Boot top ski penetration in sheltered areas and firm wind skin/slab in exposed terrain....incredibly variable with new slab peeling off easily. Buried ice crust from the Jan 14 rain petered out around 2600'. Dug @ 3000' below a rollover near the edge of the mid-pack knife hard sastrugi from the early Jan wind event. Snow depth 160cm. ECTX. CTE PC's & CTM BRK's in upper, new snow. CTH BRK below knife wind slab. Mid-pack and basal facets seem to be bonding and strengthening in this spot. Dramatic snow transport pluming off summits, ridges....everything! Looks like a Colorado snowpack out and scoured faces with deep slabs in high gullies. Purdy day though!!

  • 18/01/2017

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