No natural or human-triggered avalanches have been observed since December 23rd.
The best word to describe current conditions is FIRM.
Strong Christmas winds transformed Hatcher Pass from a powder mecca to today’s frozen wasteland of widespread firm snow surface conditions. Firm snow (hard slab) are unreactive and a few inches to up to approximately 6 feet thick. Apparently, you can’t have the best without the worst, or so Alaska has taught me. All is not lost as the groomers have kept up with the XC and motorized trails. Yesterday was cold, sunny, and beautiful, and the trails were in good condition.
But we need more snow to make off-trail backcountry use enjoyable again. On a good note, the surface is beginning to soften through the faceting process, but not fast enough. It would be great to either get a big dump of fresh snow, or severe clear skies and 20 below Fahrenheit for a week. Either would improve and soften the surface conditions.
In the meantime, avalanche stability has increased, weak layers are compressing and gaining strength, and propagation potential is decreasing. It’s murphy’s law I guess, as this season some of the best conditions have come with some of the more dangerous avalanche hazards, and the worst conditions, well, at least now, next to no avalanche hazard.
While the likelihood of triggering an avalanche is very low on the probability scale, it’s important to recognize that we can’t completely ever rule it out. Continue to build good habits, even in this snow and avalanche drought.
Some conditions images from yesterday:
The next chance for precipitation appears to be Sunday, but at this point we only expect a dusting.
NWS AVG Forecast here.
Current Version AVG Discussion
233 PM AKST Fri Jan 6 2023 .
Gap winds will strengthen along the coastal mountains tonight through Saturday out ahead of a complex of lows tracking out of the Pacific and into the Gulf of Alaska. Otherwise, mostly clear and cold conditions will prevail. Forecast confidence has dropped for later this weekend and into early next week due to uncertainty in the track of multiple lows across the Gulf. With the main low center now expected to be farther south on Saturday, the arrival of precipitation in Southcentral has been delayed. A leading warm front may bring some light snow to the Cordova Mountains as early as Saturday afternoon. However, precipitation looks much likelier overnight Saturday night into Sunday as a short-wave trough lifts northward toward Southcentral. Expect snow to overspread coastal mountains on up into the Copper River Basin by Sunday, with a chance of snow spreading west to Hatcher Pass and the front range of the Chugach/Anchorage. Snow levels will remain fairly low, starting at sea level Saturday night and rising to 500 ft to 1000 ft in the Prince William Sound region. This generally looks like a light QPF event. The trend is toward more QPF in the Cordova /Valdez mountains and a little less in the eastern Kenai Peninsula for the weekend.
NWS point forecast here.
Marmot Weather Station here.
Independence Mine Snotel here.
State Parks Snow Report and Motorized Access information here.
Mat-Su XC trail grooming report here.