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Avalanche danger worsens in Alaska's Turnagain Pass area

Alaska Dispatch

Another round of heavy snow smacked Mount Alyeska and the Turnagain Pass area early Thursday morning, putting recreational users on their heels.

Some two feet fell on Mount Alyeska, leaving the top of Chair 6 with 62 inches total.  Some 20 inches fell midway up the mountain.  The fresh snow prompted Alyeska officials to close the top of the mountain to skiing and riding on Thursday. 

Farther south at Turnagain Pass, the avalanche danger remained high and Graham Predeger of the Chugach National Forest Avalanche Information Center wrote that field work showed that the “snowpack is proving very unstable right now and an avalanche triggered today in steep terrain will likely be unmanageable for a skier or snowmachiner.”

He advised recreational users to stay out of the mountains for at least 24 hours.

Predeger reported “human triggered avalanches and some downright spooky test results from our snow pits yesterday, all from below tree line.  As we have watched our seasonal snowpack more than double in a few short days, the weak layers we’ve been talking about for the last month finally have a 2-5 foot slab sitting on top of them. 

“The new slab sits on several different weak layers, any of which may fail with the weight of a person causing an avalanche that will prove unmanageable in steep terrain.”