The Bottom Line: The current hazard rating is MODERATE above treeline for the Valdez area. The snowpack pre-January 11th has good strength and structure but we have such a large forecast region that there are bound to be SPECIFIC localized abnormalities. Triggering a slab avalanche deeper than the current storm snow is unlikely; but not impossible. ALSO, glide cracks may release into avalanches . . . limiting/avoiding exposure under them is prudent. Give cornices a wide berth.
Problem 1: Storm Slab.
Distribution: all aspects above treeline. Size: small. Likelihood: possible. Sensitivity: reactive.
Description: Isolated features are collecting enough new snow to form small slabs (up to 1' thick). These slab avalanches may be small but could still be large enough to knock a rider off a cliff or into a terrain trap. This new snow could also release as a dry loose avalanche: always watch your slough for your sake and your partners'.
Problem 2: Glide Avalanches.
There are open cracks from the port to 42 mile between 3500-4000' on multiple aspects and on January 8th there was a full release near mile 31. It is important to remember glide cracks can release at any time and are not associated with human triggers. New snowfall is covering up these gaping, crevasse-like features so use caution particularly when traveling in FLAT LIGHT. The best way to manage this problem is to limit (AKA avoid) travel underneath and beside them.
The current list of known open glides cracks from West to East:
The only recently reported avalanche was a natural glide avalanche near 31 mile where the Tsaina River meets Richardson Hwy.
Photo thanks to @hewitt_clyde, There is also a recent video update 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.
The most recent NWS rec Forecast can be found HERE:
304 PM AKST Sat Jan 12 2019
The Thompson Pass Mountain Forecast covers the mountains (above
1000 ft) surrounding Keystone Canyon through Thompson Pass to
Temp at 1000` 20 F 30 F
Temp at 3000` 21-30 F 31 F
Chance of precip 100% 80%
(above 1000 FT) 0.28 in 0.12 in
(above 1000 FT) 4-9 in 1-3 in
Snow level sea level sea level
Wind 3000` ridges NE 10-25 mph SE 0-15 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. In non windy locations Surface Hoar and Near Surface Facets have formed and may be a problem layer soon. The New Year's Eve storm brought nearly 2.5" of SWE to Valdez and almost another 1" (SWE) on the 2-3rd of January. The rain line was 1200' during the Jan 2-3 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 problem layers that are currently dormant: 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 MODERATE above treeline in the Valdez region. If the wind picks up or we get more snow than forecasted the avalanche hazard will rapidly increase. 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.
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