Hatcher Pass Avalanche Center

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ARCHIVED - Forecasts expire after 24 hours.
Sat, December 9th, 2023 - 7:00AM
Sun, December 10th, 2023 - 7:00AM
Jed Workman
Avalanche risk The Bottom Line

8-10″ of new low density snow has accumulated over the last 48 hours. 

A moderate hazard exists for human triggering small dry loose avalanches on all aspects on slopes 40° and steeper in specific locations. 

In locations with previously firm surfaces, these will be easier to trigger and larger in volume.

The basal facets which have plagued HP since the start of the season have gained stability and is not a concern today. Future rapid loading could reawaken this problem.

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Sat, December 9th, 2023
Upper Elevation
Above 3,500'
2 - Moderate
Avalanche risk
Mid Elevation
2 - Moderate
Avalanche risk
Low Elevation
Below 2,500'
2 - Moderate
Avalanche risk
0 - No Rating
1 - Low
2 - Moderate
3 - Considerable
4 - High
5 - Extreme
Avalanche risk Avalanche risk Avalanche risk Avalanche risk Avalanche risk
Travel Advice Generally safe avalanche conditions. Watch for unstable snow on isolated terrain features. Heightened avalanche conditions on specific terrain features. Evaluate snow and terrain carefully; identify features of concern. Dangerous avalanche conditions. Careful snowpack evaluation, cautious route-finding, and conservative decision-making essential. Very dangerous avalanche conditions. Travel in avalanche terrain not recommended. Extraordinarily dangerous avalanche conditions. Avoid all avalanche terrain.
Likelihood of Avalanches Natural and human-triggered avalanches unlikely. Natural avalanches unlikely; human-triggered avalanches possible. Natural avalanches possible; human-triggered avalanches likely. Natural avalanches likely; human-triggered avalanches very likely. Natural and human-triggered avalanches certain.
Avalanche Size and Distribution Small avalanches in isolated areas or extreme terrain. Small avalanches in specific areas; or large avalanches in isolated areas. Small avalanches in many areas; or large avalanches in specific areas; or very large avalanches in isolated areas. Large avalanches in many areas; or very large avalanches in specific areas. Very large avalanches in many areas.
Recent Avalanches

One recent natural dry loose avalanche was observed at upper elevation on 12/7. There are likely more from the 12/8 storm, but we were unable to document due to poor light conditions yesterday.

Avalanche Problem 1
  • Dry Loose
    Dry Loose
  • Certain
    Very Likely
  • Historic (D4-5)
    Very Large (D3)
    Large (D2)
    Small (D1)
Dry Loose
Dry Loose avalanches are the release of dry unconsolidated snow and typically occur within layers of soft snow near the surface of the snowpack. These avalanches start at a point and entrain snow as they move downhill, forming a fan-shaped avalanche. Other names for loose-dry avalanches include point-release avalanches or sluffs.

Likelihood of Avalanches
Terms such as "unlikely", "likely", and "certain" are used to define the scale, with the chance of triggering or observing avalanches increasing as we move up the scale. For our purposes, "Unlikely" means that few avalanches could be triggered in avalanche terrain and natural avalanches are not expected. "Certain" means that humans will be able to trigger avalanches on many slopes, and natural avalanches are expected.

Size of Avalanches
Avalanche size is defined by the largest potential avalanche, or expected range of sizes related to the problem in question. Assigned size is a qualitative estimate based on the destructive classification system and requires specialists to estimate the harm avalanches may cause to hypothetical objects located in the avalanche track (AAA 2016, CAA 2014). Under this schema, "Small" avalanches are not large enough to bury humans and are relatively harmless unless they carry people over cliffs or through trees or rocks. Moving up the scale, avalanches become "Large" enough to bury, injure, or kill people. "Very Large" avalanches may bury or destroy vehicles or houses, and "Historic" avalanches are massive events capable of altering the landscape.

Signal Word Size (D scale) Simple Descriptor
Small 1 Unlikely to bury a person
Large 2 Can bury a person
Very Large 3 Can destroy a house
Historic 4 & 5 Can destroy part or all of a village
More info at Avalanche.org

Two back-to-back storms, 12/6-7 and 12/8 brought approximately 8-10″ of new low-density snow. The new snow has landed on a mix of hard surfaces, rain crusts up to 3500’, and softer old snow.

Storm snow totals vary by area and not necessarily by elevation. While the Frosty Bottom Snotel (2700′) reports 2-3″ of snow in the last 24 hours, we observed 6″ of new snow at 1200′ and 3″ at about 3000′ in the Independence Mine parking lot, and 2″ near Lucky Shot Mine (Willow side) over the last 24 hours.

Where the new snow sits on firm surfaces and rains crusts, dry loose avalanches will be more likely to trigger.

Even a small loose dry avalanche may be able to sweep you off your feet and carry you into other hazards.

Small dry loose avalanches can be mitigated safely with appropriate slope cutting techniques.


Sat, December 9th, 2023

NWS AVG Forecast here.

NWS point forecast here.

Marmot Weather Station here.

Independence Mine Snotel here.

Frostbite Bottom Snotel here.

State Parks Snow Report and Motorized Access information here.

XC trail grooming report for Mat-Su, Anchorage, and Kenai here.

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