Saturday-Tuesday 1/21-1/24

Issued: Sat, Jan 21, 2017 at 8AM

Expires: Tue, Jan 24, 2017

Recent avalanche activity has demonstrated that newly formed windslabs will need time to bond to underlying snow. The unpredictable nature of this problem requires constant attention and evaluation of the variable conditions.

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



 Above 1800′
Aspect: Shifting winds have loaded (top and cross-loaded) all aspects exposed to wind in the last week
Ridges, gullies, bowls, rollovers
Likelihood (Human Triggered): 
Danger Trend: 
Decreasing slowly
Forecaster Confidence: 

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: The 54 inches of snow that fell Jan 13-17 settled quickly if it wasn’t blown away into windslab. Now, to seal the deal and firm up our surfaces, a strong northeast wind has once again wreaked havoc on our mountain slopes leading to natural avalanche activity Thursday.  Everything on the pass is scoured and wind textured.

Wind Scoured Pass

Wind Scoured Pass

Wind Scoured Odyssey

Wind Scoured Odyssey

Expect firm windslab depths to 3 feet or more on lee features. In semi-protected areas, soft windslabs were easily sliding off of steep rollovers on Wednesday and Thursday. The cold temperatures at Thompson Pass and inland will slow the bonding of fresh windslab to old surfaces. On Thursday, slabs in the maritime are starting to bond and were not supporting large crack propagtion.

In wind protected areas, the storm snow has settled quickly and has formed a soft, supportable slab with wind skin in areas. Luckily, the recent storm snow seems to be bonding quite well despite its weak nature in relation to overlying new windslabs. Failures have been non-planar breaks that won’t support propagation.

In the lower part of the firm midpack, below our knife-hard wind slabs from early this year, old facets are firming and tending to holding tight to each other.

Most unsettling are scattered areas with a structurally weak base of sugar snow that is precariously holding up heavy mid and upper slab layers. Large whumphs were reported Tuesday near the Worthington Glacier, reminding us we cannot fully trust this snowpack yet: especially in areas that are colder with a thin snowpack (inland of MP 33 where these conditions are more likely to be found).

It is still possible for smaller upper layer avalanches to step down to deep old persistent weak layers and create very large events.

Find more photos and observations at the bottom of the page. Sharing your observations creates an informed community that everyone benefits from at some point.

Recent Avalanche Activity

Many upper elevation, exposed areas were dramatically scoured revealing several storm-related, loose dry avalanches in very steep, rocky terrain throughout the road corridor. Post-storm, strong outflow winds led to many fresh wind slabs peeling off Thursday. Significantly less snow hit the continental and northern part of the inter-mountain zones, leading to little loading and avalanche activity. Please share what you see.

coastal-zone-iconMaritime (Coastal):

  • Dec. 19: Wind slab/cornice releases during the day above the airport and on the roll-overs below South Odyssey Couloir
Windslab release off ridge above airport

Windslab release off ridge above airport ran to alders (lines mark crown and toe of debris)

  • Dec. 17: Reported mid-storm debris below the N face of Benzine sliding into the popular ski line. Many others seen in steep gullies.

intermountain-zone-iconInter-Mountain (Transitional):  

  • Dec. 19: Several new wind slab releases in windloaded gullies below Max High
Release Near Max High

Release Near Max High

Old debris seen day before off summit of Max High, but today wind slabs peeling out in loaded gullies.

Old, storm related avalanche ran off summit of Max High (see arrow), but Thursday’s wind slabs peeled out in loaded gullies below (see crown lines).

  • Dec 18: Max High Peak had some old-ish (mid-storm?) debris below the SE aspect at about MP 35 (see Trevor’s map link below for location)

interior-zone-iconContinental (Interior):

MP 51 Boulder Creek/Rice Mountain Release to ground.

Dec 19: MP 51 Boulder Creek/Rice Mountain Release to ground. Possibly storm initiated, for debris in gully seemed filled in.

Recent Weather

WEATHER FORECAST for NEXT 24 HRS at 3,000 ft:
Temperature Forecast (Min/Max *F):  -5 / 5
Ridgetop Wind Forecast (direction/mph): NE / 5-20
Snowfall (in):  Trace
PAST 24 hours
Ferry Terminal Thompson Pass
Average Wind Speed (mph) / Direction   5/ NNE  15 / NE
Max Wind Gust (mph) / Direction  17 / NE  25 / NE
Temperature Min / Max (*F)  8 / 21  -15 / 1

Weather Forecast:  Clouds, a dusting of snow and rising temperatures arrived yesterday as a trough arrived and stagnated to our west. More random flakes could fall today before a strong low pushing to the east should shift things up and broken skies could occur with a slight dip in temperatures. As the low moves in closer with southerly flow and warm air on Tuesday, there is a possibility of rain to hit our region.

Additional Info & Media

SNOW HISTORY: Valdez 1/22 AM Thompson Pass 1/21 AM
24 Hour Snow / Water Equiv. ~” /~’ 0.5″ /0.01″
Storm Snow /Water Equiv. (1/13-1/17) 46.4” /3.2″ 54″ /4.2″
Current Snow Depth 39″ 36″ (wind scoured)
January Snow / Water Equiv. 46.9″ /3.2″ 54″ / 4.2″
Total Winter Snowfall / Water Equiv. 142.8″ / 13” 197″ / 18.6″
Snowload in Valdez 47 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 (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