Cold temperatures, rippin’ winds, poor visibility and firm snow conditions don’t make for the best combinations to get out and play in the mountains. If you do though, respect newly formed wind slabs on slopes opposite the dominate wind. You are likely to be the additional load that triggers an unpredictable and larger than expected avalanche.
2017 New Year’s resolution – develop backcountry habits to LIVE TO RIDE ANOTHER DAY:
- everyone is my riding group has a functioning beacon, probe, and shovel (& floatpack)
- my group chooses to avoid slopes with rocky trigger points
- my group chooses to avoid slopes with terrain traps; cliffs, gullies, and creek ravines
- my group agrees that one rider on a steep slope at a time is what we do
- my group gathers out of harm’s way, beyond the run-out
- my group reviews our day – where could we have triggered a slide? how can we improve our plan?
Above 2,500ft Considerable
1,800 to 2,500ft Considerable
Below 1,800ft Moderate
Degrees of Avalanche Danger ?
|FRIDAY||SATURDAY||SUNDAY & MONDAY|
Elevation: Above 1800′
Aspect: mostly south and west
Terrain: Near ridgelines, gullies and rollovers
Likelihood (Human Triggered): Possible
Size: Small to Medium
Danger Trend: Increasing
Forecaster Confidence: Good
Elevation: Mostly above 2500′
Terrain: Steep rocky slopes where facets exist under old and between windslab, especially interior of Thompson Pass
Likelihood (Human Triggered): Possible
Danger Trend: Increasing w/ new load
Forecaster Confidence: Poor
AVALANCHE PROBLEM SCALE DESCRIPTORS:
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
LIST OF AVALANCHE PROBLEMS <here>
SNOWPACK DISCUSSION: Intense outflow, northerly winds are driving any and all loose snow our of the mountains and depositing it on your driveway so you can work more and stay warm. Expect nearly all lee (mostly southerly and westerly facing) terrain features (rollovers, ridges and gullies) to be loaded up with touchy wind slabs. These new slabs are adding snow load and testing the snow structures throughout our region….natural avalanches are possible.
This region is generally harboring a thicker snowpack in the upper elevations that has seen consistently warmer temperatures…especially the last few days. This combination has resulted in a stronger, more predictable snow structure. The most recent avalanche activity has only involved the newest, surface snow. If you can navigate your way through the alders in the lower elevations, enjoyable conditions can be found.
A large variance in depth and structure dominates this region. Weak, early season facets at the ground and between layers of windslab remain a concern, especially in steep, shallow and unsupported snowfields. Many of the storms this season have not pushed interior very far, so areas further from the ocean are generally thinner and more questionable. It has been colder on the interior side as well. These circumstances support persistent weaknesses that have been showing themselves thoughout the inter-mountain region. In the upper Tsaina Valley and north of Mile Post 36 along the highway corridor, the snow is reacting very similar to the continental region: weak, shallow structure that fails easily when loaded.
More interior beyond Mile Post 46 and out past Billy Mitchell, the snowpack is thin and incredibly weak: mostly facets. Recent avalanches are readily stepping down to ground. This region will require significant amounts of new snow and an avalanche cycle to turn things around.
Find more photos and observations at the bottom of the page. Sharing your observations helps others make informed decisions.
Recent Avalanche Activity
Please report avalanches you see or trigger. The Valdez Avalanche Center does not dwell on the who or why an avalanche incident may have occurred, but would like to be informed about how the snow is behaving out there. There is uncertainty about the persistent slab problem right now and any activity or signs of unstable snow provides more clues for forecasting the patterns in our area. This benefits all of us who recreate in this region.
- A couple new loose size 1-2 avalanches out of steep rocks Jan.2 above 3000′.
Inter-Mountain (Transitional): 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.
- Jan. 4: Three, size 2, south facing, slab avalanches seen looking up the Tsaina Valley: One failed on a broad face, mid slope, while the other two crowns were near a rocky, steep ridgeline.
- Jan.1: Two size 2 slab avalanches released to ground above MP 36, south aspect above 3000′
- 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
- Dec. 30: D2 storm slab avalanche pulled out to ground mid south slope of Mt Tiekel over Mile Post 46
|WEATHER FORECAST for NEXT 24 HRS at 3,000 ft:|
|Temperature Forecast (Min/Max *F):||-12/ 5|
|Ridgetop Wind Forecast (direction/mph):||NE / 25-70|
|WIND & TEMPERATURE
PAST 24 hours
|Ferry Terminal||Thompson Pass|
|Average Wind Speed (mph) / Direction||18 / NNE||35/ NE|
|Max Wind Gust (mph) / Direction||64/ NE||68 / NE|
|Temperature Min / Max (*F)||22 / 39||7 / 24|
Weather Forecast: A dominant high pressure system over mainland Alaska combined with the jet stream aiming arctic air directly at us from the north has led to gusty conditions that will peak near 70mph on Thompson Pass this morning and slowly back down into this evening. Temperatures are dropping rapidly and will top out in the single digits on Thompson Pass and lower 20’s in town. Pressure gradients will likely drive more manageable outflow winds into next week and possible inversion. No precipitation is slated for our near future, but a crystal or two may drift out of the atmosphere this next Thursday as more could follow right behind. At least it’s sunny outside!!!
Additional Info & Media
|SNOW HISTORY:||Valdez 1/6 AM||Thompson Pass 1/4 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||25.5″||31″|
|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.
|SNOWFALL for LAST 24 HRS at OTHER STATIONS:|
|Nicks Valley at 4200 ft (in):||0″|
|Upper Tsaina at 1750 ft (in):||0″|
|Sugarloaf at 550 ft (in):||0″|
|SNOW DEPTH & WATER SURVEY (1/3/2017)||Depth||Snow Water Equivalent|
|Milepost 2.5 Valdez||22.7″||4.7″|
|Milepost 29 Worthington Flats||44″||9.9″ Jan.3|
|Milepost 37 Tsaina River bridge||33.8″||5.6″ Jan.3|
|This survey is done the first week of each month.|
- 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>
SNOW CLIMATE ZONES:
- 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
Interactive Map of Valdez Forecast Areas w/ Many Resource Layers (Trevor Grams)
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: http://www.