Bottom Line: Thompson Pass just hit 100" of snow for the month of December (season total 190"). Since the 14th 20" of new snow has fallen with winds predominately from the NE but also the SE.
In the port of Valdez: 25" of new snow has fallen since Dec 14th all the way to sea level with relatively no wind.
Problem 1: Wind Slab. Location: All lee aspects above 1500'. Sensitivity: Stubborn. Likelihood: Possible. Size: Small to Large. Trend: Decreasing.
The Wind Slab hazard is MODERATE above 1800'. Stiff and stubborn slabs up to 3' have formed on multiple aspects and elevations due to lots of snow available for transport from the past few weeks. Wind slabs often feel and sound hollow and styrofoam-esk and can break higher and wider than their cousins, the storm slab, due to their stiffness. Use caution on slopes over 30deg when the surface snow begins to feel firm or show signs of wind affect (such as a wave-like appearance).
Problem 2: Persistent Slab. Location: All aspects and elevations that have enough snow to slide (possibly down to 500'). Sensitivity: Stubborn-Unreactive (dormant). Likelihood: Unlikely. Size: Large+. Trend: Diminishing.
There are multiple buried problem layers up to 6' deep in the snowpack and widespread from the port-road corridor-60 mile. There are multiple facet-crust combos (mainly rain crusts), buried near surface facets (higher in the snowpack), and basel facets at the bottom. Most of these problem layers are gaining strength; but it is a slow process. The likelihood of triggering these slabs is low but the consequence is high. ALWAYS choose your safe zones wisely and select the right route on the right day. Larger and more complex terrain is not recommended at this time.
No new avalanches reported since December 13.
From the NWS Rec Fx for Thompson Pass:
329 AM AKST Sun Dec 23 2018
The Thompson Pass Mountain Forecast covers the mountains (above
1000 ft) surrounding Keystone Canyon through Thompson Pass to
Temp at 1000` 25-31 F 18-24 F
Temp at 3000` 18-22 F 10-14 F
Chance of precip 0% 0%
(above 1000 FT) 0.00 in 0.00 in
(above 1000 FT) 0 in 0 in
Snow level 400 ft sea level
Wind 3000` ridges NE 10-29 mph NE 8-26 mph
Remember the choice is yours:
Have the right route,
With the right group,
In the right conditions,
On the right day?
Live to ride another day!
Link to VAC Facebook Video update about sea level snowpack.
Early season conditions still dominate the Valdez region: low overall snowpack and multiple buried problem layers. We have seen little recent avalanche activity; but just because a bear is sleeping doesn't mean you should poke it. There are a lot of slopes under 30 degrees, without terrain traps, available to choose from.
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