Our snow season began with above average precipitation and temperatures. Beginning in September, snow lines generally hung around 4500′ until 10/12. At that point our area received the first snow down to sea level with 12-16 inches on the north side of Thompson Pass.
On 10/15 wet conditions continued with the freezing line rising to 5000′ or higher. As skies finally cleared on 10/22 we were left with a thin rain saturated snowpack capped by a stout rain crust up to 4500′. Above 4500′ much deeper snowpacks existed due to significant early season snowfall at upper elevations.
Dry and cold conditions along with moderate outflow winds finished out the month of October.
On 11/1 precipitation returned with 18 inches of snow and ~1″ of SWE on Thompson Pass. This new snow was initially reactive with several natural D2 avalanches reported on Thompson Pass. These slides were running on a firm bed surface consisting of old rain crusts and old wind slabs from October.
On 11/4 a strong north wind event kicked up with 65 mph+ winds on Thompson Pass. Our snowpack received significant damage as already thin snow below 4500′ was stripped down to old wind slabs, rain crusts and the ground.
Precipitation returned on 11/8, with additional significant snow in the forecast for the 11/11-11/13 time period. A rise in avalanche hazard will correlate directly with the amount of new snow and rising temperatures we receive. If our area receives more than 3″ of SWE in a 48 hour period, expect large natural avalanches to become possible.
Valdez/Thompson Pass early season snow and weather update
All three of our forecast zones have a thin snowpack below 4500′. Thin snowpacks are notoriously weak and can produce avalanches when significant changes in weather occur. It looks as though a significant change in weather is beginning and will climax this weekend. Some weather models are suggesting that Thompson Pass may receive over 3 feet of snow with rising temperatures and heavy rain at sea level by the end of this weekend. If this proves true the avalanche hazard will quickly raise to Considerable and potentially High by Sunday. This new snow will need time to bond to the underlying snow and significant avalanche hazard will initially exist.
Click the Full Forecast+ button below for more information. Regular avalanche forecasts will begin December 1st.
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