The Bottom Line: The snowpack has good strength and structure; but we have such a large forecast region that there are bound to be ISOLATED abnormalities such as pockets of buried surface hoar. Triggering a slab avalanche 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: Persistent Slab.
Distribution: Isolated slide paths above treeline, particularly north of 40 mile where there is a shallower snowpack. Size: small. Likelihood: unlikely. Sensitivity: unreactive.
Description: Isolated slopes and starting zones may have buried weak layers that appear dormant but they may become reactive with a large load on a trigger point. Persistent Slab and Deep Slab avalanches are unlikely but not impossible. ALWAYS consciously choose your spacing, exposure, and safe zones when traveling in avalanche terrain.
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:
A small wind slab was intentionally triggered on Jan 15 in North Odyssey Gulley at 3300' on a wind loaded feature. 10" crown, 30 yards wide.
Please share your field observations including signs of stable snow HERE.
Saturday is forecasted to be mostly sunny with moderate north winds and temps between 0 and freezing. Midday on Sunday a short lived storm (clouds and precipitation, and a little wind) could push in from the gulf all the way into the continental zone.
The most recent NWS rec Forecast can be found HERE:
317 PM AKST Fri Jan 18 2019
The Thompson Pass Mountain Forecast covers the mountains (above
1000 ft) surrounding Keystone Canyon through Thompson Pass to
Temp at 1000` 3- 9 F 7-13 F
Temp at 3000` 6-19 F 3- 9 F
Chance of precip 0% 0%
(above 1000 FT) 0.00 in 0.00 in
(above 1000 FT) 0 in 0 in
Snow level sea level sea level
Wind 3000` ridges NE 12-40 mph NE 12-41 mph
SNOWPACK BIG PICTURE: The snowpack has gained strength since the last major storm and avalanche cycle over New Years. No significant avalanche activity or problem layers have been identified since then.
Recent snowpack history, from top to bottom:
Jan 13-17 was mostly clear and dry with light to moderate north winds. Widespread Surface Hoar growth.
Jan 12-13 brought 3-10" of new snow with little wind.
Jan 4-12 was VERY cold and dry: moderate winds and wind chill reaching -50F. Pockets of surface hoar and widespread Near Surface Faceting.
Dec 30-Jan 3 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), it accumulated to over 3' above 2000' near Thompson Pass. Both of these storms had little wind.
Above 4000' the snowpack averages well over 300cm deep and has good strength and structure (few lemons). Below 4000', the snowpack is significantly shallower and has old problem layers that are bonding well (rounding) and 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 LOW for the Valdez region; the further interior snowpack is substantially shallower and has more potential problems (use caution and always assess the slopes you plan to ride). There has been widespread Surface Hoar and Near Surface Faceting that will be a problem layer in the future. Click FULL FORECAST for more safety 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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