The Bottom Line: The current hazard rating is LOW at all elevations for the Valdez area. Triggering a slab avalanche is unlikely but not impossible. Glide cracks may release into avalanches . . . limiting/avoiding exposure under them is prudent. Give cornices a wide berth.
Remember that LOW hazard does not mean NO hazard. Slab avalanches and Glide avalanches are unlikely but their descriptions remain below for awareness.
Problem 1: Wind Slab.
Distribution: all wind affected aspects above treeline. Size: small. Likelihood: unlikely. Sensitivity: stubborn-unreactive.
Description: The north wind increased January 4 blowing the New Year's soft snow and forming Wind Slabs up to 2' thick predominantly leeward to the northeasterly winds. Wind slab can be identified by dense, cohesive snow, cracking, and a hollow or drum like feel. Look for wind slab below exposed ridge lines and in proximity to Thompson Pass. Stiff wind slabs can lure riders well onto the slab before failing. Remain aware of riding through or above terrain traps.
Problem 2: Glide Avalanches.
There are open cracks from the port to 42 mile between 3500-4000' on multiple aspects. It is important to remember glide cracks can release into full-blown avalanches at any time and are not associated with human triggers. The best way to manage this problem is to limit (AKA avoid) travel underneath and beside them. A glide crack that was not previously identified released naturally probably on Jan 8 - mile 31 on the north side of the Tsaina River.
The current list of open glides cracks from West to East:
Problem 3: Persistent Slab.
Distribution: all aspects between 1200-4000'. Size: small. Likelihood: unlikely. Sensitivity: unreactive.
Description: There are multiple rain crusts layered with facets throughout the region (observed only up to 4000'). There are also BASEL facets (weak sugar snow) at the bottom of the snowpack . . . These problem layers are gaining strength and potentially either dormant or waiting for a large load such a big storm, cornice drop, or snow machine hitting a trigger point. If you choose to ride on slopes over 35 degrees choose slopes with clean run-outs and mindful selection of group spacing and safe zones. See videos of stability tests on our Facebook page.
The only reported avalanche was a natural glide avalanche at 31 mile where the Tsaina River meets Richardson Hwy.
Photo thanks to @hewitt_clyde also a video of glide cracks on our FB page: https://www.facebook.com/valdezavycenter/videos/839450486398343/
Please share your field observations including signs of stable snow HERE.
A small round of clouds and snow is approaching tonight through Friday (Jan 11). The next significant weather change is expected on Saturday night (Jan 12-14).
The most recent NWS rec Forecast can be found HERE:
320 PM AKST Thu Jan 10 2019
The Thompson Pass Mountain Forecast covers the mountains (above
1000 ft) surrounding Keystone Canyon through Thompson Pass to
Temp at 1000` -9--3 F 14 F
Temp at 3000` -2-10 F 3-12 F
Chance of precip 0% 30%
(above 1000 FT) 0.00 in 0.06 in
(above 1000 FT) 0 in 0-1 in
Snow level sea level sea level
Wind 3000` ridges NE 5-20 mph SE 5-10 mph
SNOWPACK BIG PICTURE: The region has been high and dry, cold, and dry, since Jan 5th with moderate+ north winds blowing the New Year's storms' snow and building wind slabs. The New Year's Eve storm brought nearly 2.5" of SWE to Valdez and almost another 1" on the 2-3rd of January. The rain line was 1200' during the last storm (which has now formed a 1-3" crust locking up all the snow beneath it). That is a LOT of snow and rain in 5 days and it accumulated to over 3' above 2000' near Thompson Pass. Both of these storms had little wind. Above 4000' the snowpack averages over 300cm deep and has good strength and structure (few lemons). Below 4000', the snowpack is significantly shallower and has more problem layers: facet-crust combos and BASEL facets (all the way to sea level).
If you get out riding, please send in an observation.
Do a rescue practice with your partners. Always carry a beacon, shovel, and probe, and KNOW HOW TO USE THEM.
Practice good risk management, which means only expose one person at a time to slopes 30 degrees and steeper, make group communication and unanimous decision making a priority, and choose your terrain wisely: eliminating unnecessary exposure and planning out your safe zones and escape routes.
The current avalanche hazard rating is LOW across all elevations in the Valdez region. Click FULL FORECAST for more information and please share your field observations HERE.
There are a lot of events coming up in January, check out our Facebook page for the complete list.
Forgot your password?
Lost your password? Please enter your email address. You will receive mail with link to set new password.
Back to login