Monday – Thursday

Issued: Mon, Dec 12, 2016 at 8AM

Expires: Thu, Dec 15, 2016

Although most loose snow has been transported in exposed areas, the north wind continues to erode, scour and load near ridgetops and peaks. Avoid steep windloaded slopes.

We have weak sugar snow under multiple layers of wind slab. It is possible for humans, especially heavy loads like multiple people or machines, to trigger wind slab avalanches large enough to hurt or bury. The harder the slab the further it can propagate, with a possibility of step down to deeper persistent weak layers.

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 steep features
Likelihood (Human Triggered): Possible
Size: Small to Medium
Danger Trend: Steady
Forecaster Confidence: Fair
Details: This problem will continue with north wind and cold temps.

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


SNOWPACK DISCUSSION: While wind is the primary driver of our avalanche concerns right now, continued cold weather is causing faceting throughout our snowpack.  Later in the week when a new storm arrives, we might see some activity on near surface and deeper persistent weak layers.

The last snowfall Dec.8-9 was ten inches of cold dry snow that fell in town and our port-side mountains. Thompson Pass received only 2 inches. In wind exposed areas, the northerly outflow wind moved this new snow, adding another layer of windslab.

Cold temperatures are weakening bonds throughout the snowpack. Expect sugar snow (facets) between layers of windslab, around bushes and rocks, and at the ground. In Nick’s at about 3100′ a weak persistent layer of facets was collapsing in tests down 30cm/1 foot.

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

Recent Avalanche Activity

  • Dec.11 Observed a fresh fracture line on the north aspect of Berlin Wall into Gully 2 at about 4000′, crossloaded start zone above rocky unsupported terrain. See photo on the obs page.
  • Over the last week, several windslab avalanches to size 2 have released in steep terrain at rollovers, ridgelines, and gully walls. These fracture lines have quickly blown back in.
  • Dec. 9 Loose, dry sluffs in steeps near the Port.
20161209 Loose Dry & Transport in the Port where more storm snow fell relative to Thompson Pass

20161209 Loose Dry & Wind transport near the Port


20161204 North Odyssey Wind Slab Triggered by Snow Machine

20161204 MP 26 North Odyssey Wind Slab Triggered by Snow Machine & Rider


20161203 Bald Boy & Adjacent Sympathetic

20161203 Triggered from below

20161203 MP 26 Triggered from below: Odyssey Lake

Recent Weather

WEATHER FORECAST for NEXT 24 HRS at 3,000 ft:
Temperature Forecast (Min/Max *F):  5/24
Ridgetop Wind Forecast (mph):  15-35/ NE
Snowfall (in):  0
past 24 hours
Ferry Terminal Thompson Pass
Average Wind Speed (mph) / Direction 10 / E 30 / NE
Max Wind Gust (mph) / Direction 15 / NE 49 / NE
Temperature Min / Max (*F) 20 / 24 1 / 7

A ridge of high pressure will grace us with cold temperatures, clear skies, and outflow wind through Friday. Single digits F temps at Thompson Pass with an inversion possible.  When the low pressure that is over the Bering Sea right now moves our way, we’ll see cloud, increasing temps and some precipitation.

Additional Info & Media

SNOW HISTORY: Valdez 12/12 AM Thompson Pass 12/12 AM
24 Hour Snow / Water Equiv.  0” /0″ 0″ /0″
Storm Snow /Water Equiv. (12/8-12/9) 10” /0.6″ 2″ /0.1″
Current Snow Depth 18″ 18″
December Snow / Water Equiv. 32″ / 2.2″ 19″ / 1.4″
Total Winter Snowfall / Water Equiv. 54″ / 6.3” 91″ / 9.7″
Snowload in Valdez 10 lbs/sq. ft.


Nicks Valley at 4200 ft (in): 0
Upper Tsaina at 1750 ft (in): 0
Sugarloaf at 550 ft (in): 0
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.
Sarah Carter

Forecaster: Sarah Carter