Avalanche danger and snow forecast this weekend
With all of our recent snow and more on the way, many will take to the great outdoors for the last weekend of the year. However, as you head out the door, remember – this has been a fall filled with temperature swings and every different type of precipitation imaginable. With these changing conditions, it is best to play it safe if you are not sure of the stability of any snow pack.
In the past 72 hours, Alyeska picked up almost 10 inches of snow! If that isn't enough to entice you, there is even more snow on the way. We will see our next storm move in just in time for the weekend. The snow won't really start falling until after the sun sets Friday. By Saturday, there will be enough snow to call it a powder day – so get out the fat skis and get surfing! Just keep in mind, dangerous conditions always exist in the backcountry. Mountain staff knows the terrain and conditions, so your best bet is to just stay in bounds.
All seven lifts are operating, with 50 out of the 76 trails open to skiers and riders. Right now there is a 64-inch snow pack at the mountain's summit and 19-inch snow pack at the base. Packed powder on the trails.
As far as the backcountry goes, Hatcher Pass will offer the best snow this weekend. Farther inland, the precipitation won't be as influenced by Gulf of Alaska weather conditions and therefore won't be as heavy or unstable.
Right now there is no avalanche advisory from the Hatcher Pass Avalanche Center. There is still the danger of human-triggered slides on steeper slopes. And that will be the case through the weekend. Any additional snow only increases the danger of additional avalanches.
Turnagain Pass typically gets heavier snow. This is because of its proximity to the Gulf, where open water provides warmth and a direct tap into moisture. While this means plenty of snow, it often means that snow is less stable.
In addition to the type of snow, this weekend's snow pack will also be characterized by strong winds. That will cause what we call wind loading on the snow. As wind blows the falling snow, it changes the makeup. The flakes become more pellet-like than the beautiful flakes we often think of. This also creates additional instability because the falling snow becomes more dense.
The Chugach National Forecast Avalanche Information Center listed a moderate avalanche danger for the area on Friday. But with the forecast snowfall this weekend, that will likely hold or possibly get worse.
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