Friday – Monday

Issued: Fri, Dec 09, 2016 at 8AM

Expires: Mon, Dec 12, 2016

Keep your senses tuned into the the variable conditions in the mid and upper elevations up on Thompson Pass. Even though the most recent snow wasn’t significant, it further drifted on top of old wind slabs that are resting on a poor sugar snow (facets) structure.

Investigate and test the slopes you want to explore before committing….this unpredictable problem will not remedy itself quickly and can be triggered from a distance.

This last week left us with many natural and a handful of human/machine triggered avalanches in the mid and upper elevations on Thompson Pass.

A variety of southerly facing aspects have been most problematic, but consider how the winds could redirect around terrain features and have loaded other slopes you are about to dabble on.

Above 2,500ft Moderate

1,800 to 2,500ft Moderate

Below 1,800ft Low

Degrees of Avalanche Danger ?

1. Low
2. Moderate
3. Considerable
4. High
5. Extreme

Avalanche Danger Rose ?

Avalanche Problems ?

Problem Details


2-moderate 2-moderate 2-moderate



Elevation: Above 1800′ in the alpine
Aspect: All where exposed to wind, particularly south and west
Terrain: Ridgelines, rollovers, cross-loaded features
Sensitivity: Stubborn
Distribution: Specific features
Likelihood (Human Triggered): Possible
Size: Small to Medium
Danger Trend: Steady
Forecaster Confidence: Fair
Details: On Thompson Pass, an inch or two of new, dry snow with strong winds out of the NE has likely already drifted on top of older wind slabs that often sit on top of weak facets. This will further test our weak snowpack structure throughout our region.


Sensitivity: Non-reactive, Stubborn, Responsive, Touchy
Distribution: Isolated, Specific, Widespread
Likelihood: Unlikely, Possible, Likely, Nearly Certain
Size: Small, Medium, Large, Very Large (size scale <here>)
Danger Trend: Increasing, Steady, Decreasing
Forecaster Confidence: Good, Fair, Poor


Our last significant storm (Nov.30-Dec.1) with strong onshore (SE) winds left us with one to two feet of new snow throughout our region. It was quickly followed by a reversal to extreme outflow (NNE) winds which scoured and loaded many faces for days. These new slabs loaded up on top of mid-pack and basal facets in many areas.

Soon after (Dec.2-4th), many steep, cross-loaded, and top-loaded slopes were naturally and human triggered. A few of these avalanches stepped down to the old weak layers not far below. Both of the mid-pack and ground level faceted (sugar snow) layers have failed easily in tests, some collapsing at the ground.

Since then, a few inches of new, dry snow has fallen in the upper elevations (6-8 inches in the maritime) and immediately been drifted with strong outflow winds from the NE. Clear and cold temperatures will continue to dry and weaken (facet) the snow throughout the region, setting us up for another weak layer to be buried with the next large storm.

Find more photos and observations at the bottom of the page. Sharing your observations helps others make informed decisions.

Recent Avalanche Activity

  • Windslabs sitting on weak facets have recently released naturally and by skiers/machines. Please share pics and locations if you find new activity.
20161204 North Odyssey Wind Slab Triggered by Snow Machine

20161204 North Odyssey Wind Slab Triggered by Snow Machine


20161203 Bald Boy & Adjacent Sympathetic

20161203 Triggered from below

20161203 Triggered from below: Odyssey Lake

Recent Weather

WEATHER FORECAST for NEXT 24 HRS at 3,000 ft:
Temperature Forecast (Min/Max *F):  -3/20
Ridgetop Wind Forecast (mph):  25-55/ NE
Snowfall (in):  0
past 24 hours
Ferry Terminal Thompson Pass
Average Wind Speed (mph) / Direction 14 / NE 45 / NE
Max Wind Gust (mph) / Direction 28 / ENE 54 / NE
Temperature Min / Max (*F) 14 / 21 -5 / -2

While town was gifted with ~6 inches of light and dry snow, only 1-2 inches hit Thompson Pass. Strong winds out of the NE dominated throughout the storm and and will continue today, redistributing the new snow deposits. Skies have cleared again and temps dropped….even getting colder until Tuesday, when some clouds and warmer temps may arrive.

Additional Info & Media

SNOW HISTORY: Valdez 12/9 AM Thompson Pass 12/8AM
24 Hour Snow / Water Equiv.  10” /.6″ 0″ /0″
Storm Snow /Water Equiv. (12/6-12/7) 10” /0.6″ 1″ /0.1″
Current Snow Depth 22″ 18″
December Snow / Water Equiv. 32″ / 2.2″ 17″ / 1.3″
Total Winter Snowfall / Water Equiv. 54″ / 6.3” 89″ / 9.6″
Snowload in Valdez 10 lbs/sq. ft.


Nicks Valley at 4200 ft (in): 2
Upper Tsaina at 1750 ft (in): 1
Sugarloaf at 550 ft (in): 6
SNOW DEPTH & WATER SURVEY (12/6/2016) Depth Snow Water Equivalent
Milepost 2.5 Valdez  13.2″  2.3″
Milepost 18 15.4″ 2.1″
Milepost 29 Worthington Flats 32.2″ 6.4″
Milepost 37 Tsaina River bridge 24.1″ 4.1″
This survey is done the first week of each month beginning in December.

Weather Quicklinks:

  • NWS forecast for Northeast Prince William Sound <here>
  • NOAA NWS spot forecast for Thompson Pass <here>
  • Thompson Pass RWIS weather station <here>
  • MP 30 Nicks (Happy) Valley weather station at 4200 feet <here> (scroll to Nicks Valley)
  • Valdez Glacier UAF weather station at 6600 feet <data here> <map here>
  • Further weather resources <here>


  • Maritime (Coastal) – from the Port of Valdez to Thompson Pass, all waters flowing into Valdez Arm and everything south of Marshall Pass.
  • Inter-mountain (Transitional) – between Thompson Pass and Rendezvous Lodge.
  • Continental (Interior) – the dry north side of the Chugach (north of 46 Mile, including the Tonsina River).

Photo of Thompson Pass <here>

Map of Valdez Forecast areas and recreating zones <here> (Thank you Trevor Grams!)

Run map of some of the forecast area (2MB download)<here> (Thank you Sean Wisner)

NEWS: Our region is “one of the snowiest places on earth” – Serendipity / Rendezvous snowfall record set in 1963 <here>.

Free smart phone avalanche forecasts at:

Posted in VAC Forecasts.

Forecaster: Kevin Salys