Thursday-Sunday 1/12-1/15

Issued: Thu, Jan 12, 2017 at 8AM

Expires: Sun, Jan 15, 2017

Remember: high and cold zones further interior harbor deep weaknesses topped with firm slabs….don’t be the trigger.

As new snow buries the old, remember the surface conditions that you have come across in the last week: rock, weak grains, ice, windslab….

Consider how the incoming dry or wet snow will stick to them.

We soon will be building up another significant layer that will pose a problem until things settle and bond with time.



Above 2,500ft Moderate

1,800 to 2,500ft Low

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



Mostly above 2500′
Steep rocky slopes where facets exist under old and between windslab, especially interior of Thompson Pass
Likelihood (Human Triggered): 
Small – Large
Danger Trend: 
Forecaster Confidence: 

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


SNOWPACK DISCUSSION: As snow finally returns to our region, keep tabs on how well it is bonding to old, firm surfaces. It is good to see that the first bits of precipitation may arrive warmer and sticky, so it holds tight to a variety of windslab, ice and rocky surfaces. Many these present surface layers are firm and primed for acting as a bed surface to accumulating storm snow. On the other hand, certain areas likely have developed weak crystals such as near surface facets and surface hoar in wind protected areas. Consider how these problematic snow forms will ease the release of new snow load building on top of them.

Our last storm ended New Year’s Eve. Since, it’s been clear, mostly cold, and windy. The extreme outflow wind event that started late Jan 5th had gusts to 104 mph on Thompson Pass and 98mph in Valdez creating a haze of airborne snow filled the skies as the soft snow sublimated into the atmosphere. Unfortunately for riders, our snowpack has been hit hard. The snow has thinned and been peeled back to rocks and old snow. Alders that were once laying down are popping back.

This thinning of our snowpack won’t do much for strengthening the structure. Expect lee (mostly south and west facing) terrain features (rollovers, ridges and gullies) to have knife hard wind slab.

coastal-zone-iconMaritime (Coastal):
This zone, consistentely warmer than inland, has a relatively stronger, more predictable snow structure. If you can navigate your way through the lower elevation alder, soft snow can be found in wind protected alcoves.

intermountain-zone-iconInter-mountain (Transitional):
A large variance in depth and structure defines this zone’s snowpack structure. Weak, early season facets at the ground and between layers of windslab remain a concern, especially on steep, shallow and unsupported slopes. Many of the storms this season have not pushed interior very far, so inland of passes, the snow is generally thinner and more questionable. It has been colder on the interior side as well, preserving persistent weak layers. 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.

interior-zone-iconContinental (Interior):
More interior beyond Mile Post 46 and out past Billy Mitchell, the snowpack is thin and incredibly weak: mostly facets. Recent avalanches have stepped down to ground. This structure will not change until a significant storm rolls inland.

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

Recent Avalanche Activity

coastal-zone-iconMaritime (Coastal):

  • No new observations.


intermountain-zone-iconInter-Mountain (Transitional):  The January 6 extreme wind event triggered numerous avalanches inland of Thompson Pass many releasing to ground, again reminding us of the dangers of the buried weakness of sugar snow (facets) at the ground) now covered with 2-3 feet thick hard windslab.

interior-zone-iconContinental (Interior):

  • No new observations.

Recent Weather

WEATHER FORECAST for NEXT 24 HRS at 3,000 ft:
Temperature Forecast (Min/Max *F):  10/ 25
Ridgetop Wind Forecast (direction/mph): Var/ 10-25
Snowfall (in):  1-3
PAST 24 hours
Ferry Terminal Thompson Pass
Average Wind Speed (mph) / Direction 4 / NE 22 / NE
Max Wind Gust (mph) / Direction 10/ E 31 / NE
Temperature Min / Max (*F) 16 / 31  1/ 16

Weather Forecast: A low pressure system pushing up into the Gulf of Alaska will bring warming temperatures, building clouds and scattered snowfall (with possible mixture of rain) to our region late today. It is possible to accumulate nearly 1.5 feet of snow by early Saturday, when things break up. If a closely trailing low off the pacific tracks our way, snow could return early Sunday and persist into next week.

Additional Info & Media

SNOW HISTORY: Valdez 1/11 AM Thompson Pass 1/11 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 24″ 15″ wind scoured
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 (1/3/2017) Depth Snow Water Equivalent
Milepost 2.5 Valdez  22.7″  4.7″
Milepost 18 27.9″ 5.9″
Milepost 29 Worthington Flats 44″ 9.9″
Milepost 37 Tsaina River bridge 33.8″ 5.6″
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.

Forecaster: Kevin Salys