Monday-Thursday 1/2-1/5

Issued: Mon, Jan 02, 2017 at 8AM

Expires: Thu, Jan 05, 2017

Watch the rising temperature in the alpine today – an inversion will drive air temps into the 40sF above 1800′. Stay out from under large, steep terrain. This rapid rise in temperature could reactivate old weak layers.

Above 2,500ft Considerable

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



Above 1800′
slopes steeper than 30, especially under or near rocks and cliffs
Likelihood (Human Triggered): 
Small to Medium
Danger Trend:
Increasing with prolonged temperature inversion
Forecaster Confidence: 

Elevation: Above 1800′
Aspect: mostly south and west
Terrain: Near ridgelines, gullies and rollovers
Sensitivity: Responsive
Distribution: Specific
Likelihood (Human Triggered): Possible
Size: Small to Medium
Danger Trend: Steady
Forecaster Confidence: Good

Elevation: Mostly above 2500′
Aspect: All
Terrain: Steep rocky slopes where facets exist under old and between windslab, especially interior of Thompson Pass
Sensitivity: Stubborn
Distribution: Specific
Likelihood (Human Triggered): Possible
Size: Medium
Danger Trend: Increasing with continued windloading and temperature inversion
Forecaster Confidence: Poor

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: Today the change is an extreme temperature inversion – temps above freezing in the alpine, to 42F! will loosen the surface snow and possbily reactivate old weak layers. North wind picked up Saturday and transported the 16″ Dec.30-31 storm snow. Windslab to 2 feet deep is now settling in on mid-upper elevation lee slopes. Yesterday windslab was less touchy than the day before.

coastal-zone-iconMaritime (Coastal):
Valdez town received 12″ out of the Dec.30-31 storm. With more snow and warmer temperatures, the maritime zone has a generally more uniform snowpack. Most of the recent avalanche activity observed involved the upper layers of the snowpack and occurred in steep, rocky terrain. We can’t write off colder, upper elevations harboring buried weak facets near the ground. Today’s temperature inversion could trigger wet loose in the upper elevation steeps.

intermountain-zone-iconInter-mountain (Transitional):
Interior of Thompson Pass has stayed consistently cooler and received less snow than the coast. Early season facets at the ground and between layers of windslab are still a concern. In some areas tests show sudden collapse with propagation potential; see observations from the past week. It is not out of the picture for heavy loads such as a snowmachine or multiple machines to trigger a wind loaded slope and have it step down to persistent weak layers, increasing the avalanche size and destructive potential. Today’s above freezing temperature inversion in the alpine will change the snow surface, and could waken deeper activity.

Very easy failure at top of weak facets when isolating column up Nicks @ 4200'

Very easy failure at top of weak facets when isolating column up Nicks @ 4200′

Propagation supported up Nicks Valley @ 4200': PST 40/100 (end)

Propagation supported up Nicks Valley @ 4200′: PST 40/100 (end)

interior-zone-iconContinental (Interior):
More interior beyond Mile Post 37 and out past Billy Mitchell, the snowpack is thin and weaker. Recent avalanches stepped down to ground (similar to the how the Inter-Mountain zone was acting a month or more ago). This early season persistent slab problem will not go away quickly. Today’s temperature inversion could trigger some avalanche activity on steep, unsupported slopes where the snowpack is thin.

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

Recent Avalanche Activity

Significant avalanche activity during the Dec.30-31 storm. Avalanches inland of Thompson Pass proved there is still a dangerous buried weak layer (facets at the ground) that has a lower probability of triggering, but high consequence due to hard windslab to 2-3 feet overtop.

coastal-zone-iconMaritime (Coastal):

  • No new activity observed since Dec.30-31 dry loose during storm

intermountain-zone-iconInter-Mountain (Transitional):

  • Dec.31 A couple human triggered destructive size 1-2 windslab avalanches on the steep slopes of the road run
  • Dec.30 A couple destructive size 2 (D2) storm slab avalanches pulled out on North face of Berlin Wall: stepped down to rocky ground in places (crown depth estimated ~4 feet) and hit the glacier.
  • Dec. 30 Wind loaded south face above Mile Post 37 near 3 Pigs: D2 slab pulled out of steep and rocky rollover and immediately stepped down to ground (see photo)
  • Dec.30 South facing steep, rocky gully at Mile Post 42 and ran to aldered apron

interior-zone-iconContinental (Interior):

  • Dec. 30 D2 storm slab avalanche pulled out to ground mid south slope of Mt Tiekel over Mile Post 46



Recent Weather

WEATHER FORECAST for NEXT 24 HRS at 3,000 ft:
Temperature Forecast (Min/Max *F):  40/ 42 inversion!
Ridgetop Wind Forecast (direction/mph): NE / 5-28
Snowfall (in):  0
PAST 24 hours
Ferry Terminal Thompson Pass
Average Wind Speed (mph) / Direction 5 / NE 28/ NE
Max Wind Gust (mph) / Direction 15/ NNE 40 / NE
Temperature Min / Max (*F) 21 / 31 5 / 18

Weather Forecast: Continued clear skies. A strong north wind has been blowing for two days in channeled terrain and at ridgetops. In wind protected areas Sunday a temperature inversion developed, with it becoming drastic today – expect to see spikes in the 40s farhenheit above 2500′. At 7:30 this morning, Nick’s weather station was reporting an above freezing temp of 34F. While this ridge of high pressure stays over us, there is no significant precipitation in the forecast.

Additional Info & Media

SNOW HISTORY: Valdez 1/3 AM Thompson Pass 1/2 AM
24 Hour Snow / Water Equiv. 0” /0.0” 0″ /0″
Storm Snow /Water Equiv. (12/30-12/31) 5” /0.68″ 18″ /1.6″
Current Snow Depth 30.7″ 32″
January Snow / Water Equiv. 0″ /0″ 0″ / 0″
Total Winter Snowfall / Water Equiv. 95.9″ / 8.16” 143″ / 14.4″
Snowload in Valdez 23 lbs/sq. ft.


Photos of our new Nicks Valley Weather Station Python to the east, Berlin Wall to the west.

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.

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>


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

Photo of Thompson Pass


Interactive Map of Valdez Forecast Areas w/ Many Resource Layers (Trevor Grams)


Run Map of Thompson Pass Area (Sean Wisner) (2MB download)
VAC Run Map Thompson Pass

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