turnagain avalanches

Three of the nine, human-triggered avalanches at Turnagain Pass on Saturday/CNFAIC photo

Sunny weather brought snowmachine riders out to play in Alaska’s Turnagain Pass over the weekend.

Thankfully no one died in the tumble of human-triggered avalanches that followed.


The Chugach National Forest Avalanche Information Center (CNFAIC) confirmed nine snowslides along Seattle Ridge on the north side of the Pass on Saturday, but there were no reports of anyone caught by the cascading snow.

And the near misses did appear to have something of a healthy, activity chilling effect.

“It seems people paid attention on Sunday to the special avalanche bulletin we issued, social media postings and the forecast,” the Chugach National Forest’s Graham Predeger said Monday. He reported an almost empty parking lot Sunday on the moto-side of the 900-foot Pass long ago split into a ski area to the south of the Seward Highway and a snowmobile area to the north.

Both the CNFAIC website and the National Weather Service posted avalanche warnings over the weekend for the area, which is the site of the deadliest recreation related avalanche in state history.

The weather service cautioned on Saturday morning that “two- to five-plus-feet of snow…has fallen on an unstable base. Despite improving weather, human-triggered large avalanches will remain likely on slopes steeper than 30 degrees at elevations about 1,500 feet.”

Despite that warning, the fresh, new snow was too much for some to resist, which led avalanche forecaster Wendy Wagner to lead CNFAIC’s Sunday report with an even stronger warning.


“…Nine avalanches were triggered yesterday,” the written text warned These slabs can be triggered from the bottom, side or on top of a slope while traveling along a ridge. They have the potential to be large, dangerous and unsurviveable. Additionally, cornices may break farther back than expected and could trigger an avalanche below.”

The warnings do appear to be working. There has not been a fatality in the Pass for more than a decade. There were eight deaths in the prior decade, including six deaths in a massive slide in March of 1999. It was the state’s deadliest avalanche accident in modern times.

Statewide, Alaska has averaged about four avalanche deaths a winter over the past decade. Three people died last year. Two of those deaths were in the general Anchorage area, one of them just east of Turnagain Pass on the Blackstone Glacier.

Two snowmachines were caught in the Blackstone avalanche, but one of the riders, wearing an avalanche airbag, survived. A 2014 study concluded airbags double the chances of survival of someone caught in an avalanche, but also warned that “they do not guarantee survival.

“Non-deployment remains the most considerable limitation to effectiveness. While our results show that avalanche airbags can reduce mortality in serious avalanche involvements,” the risks of death for anyone caught in a big slide remain high.

Where once Alaska avalanche deaths involved backcountry skiers, they now lean toward snowmobilers. Eight of the 15 people to die in the past five years were riding snowmachines. Two others were snowboarding, and one was a four-year-old killed by a roof avalanche. The remainder were skiers.

Avalanche authorities agree the best way to survive avalanches is to learn what causes them, and then use that knowledge to avoid avalanche terrain and/or avalanche conditions.

Alaska, sadly, has a bad history of people learning about avalanches only to make themselves more comfortable pushing toward the edge of safety. Some of those people have become avalanche victims.

Avalanche conditions remain high at elevation in the Kenai Mountains surrounding the Pass. That isn’t expected to change until later in the week when temperatures start to cool.

Early Monday evening, it was 40 degrees and raining in Portage near the base of Turnagain Pass. The unusually warm weather is forecast to continue through at least Wednesday.











26 replies »

  1. Avalanche Information Center (CNFAIC) confirmed that mountains of data were deleted during Hillary’s deletion of 33,000 emails and during her weekend cellphone smashing parties. The Avalanche Information Center (CNFAIC) issued warnings about mountains of Classified information on Hillary’s personal server that has been hacked by Russian operatives. Data may never be recovered. A recovery team is searching hopefully.

  2. Only @The Dull Men’s Club can Trump and Hillary come up in the comments under an essay about avalanches. Really now, have you all thought about starting your own site? It most certainly would not attract any women but I’m sure you’d all be ducks with that. You guys have an illness that never existed before the digital universe.

    Of course you will ask: “Well why and the f___k are you here!?” You see, I was busted and convicted of misbehaving in Santa’s workshop and sentenced to the purgatory of mandatory posting on sites like this thus I have a legal excuse…..

  3. I dunno Bill, wouldn’t count ole Don out yet..We have heard all those “experts” before..
    98.5% Hillary
    01.5% Trump

    • You could be right Bryan. However we do have a recent election and a recent cave on govt. shutdown (to get a wall) that doesn’t give much reason to think “The Donald” is up to the task ahead.
      We will get another look at how he responds to whatever deal is presented him in a couple of weeks. My prediction is that if the “Mighty Casey” strikes out again, then he will just declare victory and resign. Heheh!

      • So Bill interesting study I’ve been doing. Trump has a committee to work on a wall deal . It appears he is not just having to appease other politicians. Strangely the Koch brothers are having a huge say which makes it very hard to strike immigration and wall deals . As ultra rich companies have huge political pull on his other politicians. Votes ect . Koches have sworn not to support trump and are one of largest employer in nation. Effectively his enemy. Obviously it’s not appropriate that a leader can’t just make best decisions for his citizens but has to work around powerful very smart buisness men . = or higher intelligence and buisness acumen. But only out for themselves. This Create a form of oligarchy. Adds massive complication and deal blockades. I’m sure koches not only ones pulling political strings . It appears this is why Trump is in bind . Appears to have very little to do with other political strong women but more to do with who tells them whether deal is adequate. This is probably why these politicians are sacrificing Americans security as well as their honesty even though in past they have called for controlled and legal immigration. Big companies fear the concept of a labor bottleneck . They know they can force an extreme deal out of trump – for Silicon Valley workers as well as menial labor workers. Sure this is form of capitalism at work but when a few mega rich self serving companies ( that we need ) are pulling the strings to help their bottom line versus what’s best for American workers it creates a very bad representative government situation. This issue needs attention and fixed . This says to me a wall will eventually be started and a deal struck but not until trump has given all that can be squeezed. He threatens emergency powers but knows that stretches law and its best to have congress and as much of house on his side as possible. He knows how successful projects proceed. A coalition, a deal , money and planning. Without that even simple projects fail . I didn’t realize that companies would have so much pull . They do . He has to appease them before he can get politicians to agree . It has less to do with their idealism and more to do with who pays their bills . I’m sure you probably won’t agree but if you study situation adequately you will see I am at least partially correct. He saw shut down was no help – a loosing hand . If a poker player can’t bluff on a looseing hand he cuts his losses . Waits for better hand . So trump clearly did right thing. We will see next move . Pelosi May have won a few pennies and respect this round but she partially showed her hand . I used to play poker a bit so I do understand basic elements. Trump understands longer game far better than I no doubt.

      • To what I have read koches (trumps enemies) are on panel trump must deal with to get his wall . Kushner is trumps main representative. Insane method. Impure democracy . Add to that and his own party is trying hard to stay in Afghanistan/ Syria. Via Maconal making his own plan . Why probably because someone owns him and it can be used as bargaining or threat so big buisness can get what it wants if trump wants Maconals political support. Can’t remember how to spell his name but you get point . More goes on here than press explains . Probably because big money talks to big money and wants us distracted with small things. This is why citizens need to support trump . CNN and all msm media including fox is a smoke screen to get their way . If citizens really knew the facts they would support trump . Mueller investigation is more about putting fear into people who want change /buck system than getting to truth or probably even getting trump . ( though he would like to ) 20 plus machinegun armed agents arresting Stone was more about intimidation of him , witnesses and anyone who bucks the system than it was about an efficient arrest . Stone would have submitted to court without this . He is old and doesn’t own a gun . Intimidation. Abuse of power. Waste of money and citizen/ public control. There’s a mouthful of highly probable opinions.

      • Opinion, while Don Trump ended up doing the only thing he could it took him over a month to get to his “come to Jesus moment.” During that time he pissed off a large bit of America and stuck many with debt that they’ll not get back. He was bluffing with a lot of people’s lives and they will probably never forgive him-pretty clear it can’t happen again.
        It sounds like, to me, that he is prowling around for someone to blame for his incompetence as he already knows that he is pfucked.
        This is not rocket science, either. This wall shit is a non-starter, with large majority of voters opposed to it so why all the fuss to try to get such muscled through in either house of Congress. The only way this could ever get done was to take the govt. as hostage and this Democrat controlled House has said it can never allow it. If it were to happen you can bet that the govt. would be held hostage every time “The Donald” got a new whim.
        Thus Nancy has said there will be no wall and there cannot be a wall. If some big shot republicans businessmen have expressed their feelings about fixing the crazy that has been going on ever since Ann Coulter piped up to threaten Trump, then it’s about time. I think McConnell has had about enough of it too, sort of on the order of why John Boehner got fed up with his job-the difference is that Senate doesn’t have that bunch of nutjobs (Freedom Caucus) so McConnell can just let Trump swing in the wind.
        And swing he will, IMO.
        By the way, I’m not a poker player but I do know about bluffing-some don’t do it well. This situation was one where one side knew what was happening while the other was controlled by someone’s gut feeling. The bluff fell apart but not before pissing off nearly everyone. And throughout most of it some were saying Don Trump was playing chess while Nancy was playing checkers. Whew! Don Trump was playing “Candyland.”
        Of course it’s just my opinion.

      • Trump really has capitalized off his reality TV show experience….
        Sensationalized news bites rarely touching the truth.
        Seems like POTUS is using executive orders against Venezuela?
        How does this happen without Congressional approval in the U.S.?

        “This is very dangerous,” world-renowned economics professor and senior U.N. advisor Jeffrey D. Sachs warned on CNN Monday afternoon.
        “He expressed concern that the administration’s actions could cause immense suffering among the Venezuelan people, similar to the consequences endured by citizens of other countries subjected to U.S. interventions.”
        “The problem here is that these efforts by the United States to change other countries’ governments often lead to catastrophe,” Sachs noted, “as has happened all through the Middle East in recent years.”

      • None of this has to do with the subject of this article, at all. Sometimes though a little bit of sanity needs to be interjected into the conversation.


        The Donald floated a compromise and the insane left lead by Pelosi and Schumer rejected it. The next move was to give some to get some, Pelosi and Schumer said they would negotiate when the 1/4 of government that was shutdown was started back up…with three weeks to negotiate. For some reason the unreliable media has refused to acknowledge this except after a couple of days of celebration they are now starting to say that Trump is threatening to shutdown 1/4 of government again. It’s give and take in governing, always has been always will be. Keep celebrating how Trump lost, you have about 2.5 weeks left until the check Pelosi and Schumer signed comes due.

        The game isn’t over, like you said “Don Trump was playing chess while Nancy was playing checkers”

        Full disclosure, once again, I did not vote for Donald Trump. I support my President, just as I did with Obama. Walls work and the majority of Americans support them when and where they are needed.

      • Steve-O,
        You write:
        “Sometimes though a little bit of sanity needs to be interjected into the conversation.”
        I agree…
        Maybe you should remember your president’s campaign promise to “make Mexico pay for the wall”?
        What has happened to that?
        Maybe our Congress should sanction the Narco / Cartel State of Mexico (instead of Venezuela) and start opening up the back of EVERY NAFTA truck that crosses the border daily?
        This would catch a ton of drugs (literally) and thousands of illegal immigrants every year.
        As for walls in general.
        It appears that POTUS is on a “wall” kick these days.
        Maybe one of his subsidiary companies owns the means of production?
        I also find it interesting that Trump does not believe in climate change, yet his golf course in Ireland used that on their permit application.
        Maybe we need a “new norm” for today’s definition of “insanity”?
        “Donald Trump just got permission to build two seawalls around his Irish golf resort.”
        “Trump’s Doonbeg resort previously cited climate change as a reason to build the walls — even though Trump doesn’t believe in it.”

      • Steve,

        Counting politicians broken campaign promises is a fools errand.

        If a golf course in Ireland filing permits for a seawall proves global warming then I guess it must be so. The globe warms and cools all the time. I watched a National Geographic show the other day about human skeletons in the Sahara Desert, did you know that 5000 years ago there were massive lakes where the Sahara Desert is now? There was a thriving community of people living in the middle of what is now a massive desert, global warming caused that too.

      • Steve-O,
        You are missing the picture on Trump’s hypocrisy here.
        This has nothing to do with my personal beliefs on Climate Change.
        “The billionaire, who called global warming a hoax, warns of its dire effects in his company’s application to build a sea wall.”
        “A permit application for the wall, filed by Trump International Golf Links Ireland and reviewed by POLITICO, explicitly cites global warming and its consequences — increased erosion due to rising sea levels and extreme weather this century — as a chief justification for building the structure.”
        And lastly we should start holding politicians to their campaign promises…
        Get Mexico to pay for the wall…

      • Steve,

        From the article you linked:

        “Trump International Golf Links submitted an environmental impact statement — prepared by an Irish environmental consultancy”


        “If you’re being responsible you are protecting your property and investing in these things,” said Cynthia McHale, director of the insurance program at Ceres

        Seems like once you read the article it tells a little different story than the way you described it. I certainly do not fault anyone who wishes to protect their property. Trump International Golf Links used a local source to deal with the permitting process, they wrote the application, not Donald Trump. There is no hypocrisy, there is much ado about nothing and more hand wringing while trying to make a mountain out of a mole hill by the media…in short yet more fake news.

        Let me know how that whole holding politicians accountable goes, I’m guessing you were first in line to do so under Obama and Bush, and Clinton, etc., etc., etc.. Like I said a fools errand.

      • Well said Steve -0 . Perhaps climate change needs clarification. Yes it’s changing. Question is how much can we control that ? Do we even need to ? Obviously toxins need reduced. Beyond that ? Toxins should clearly be the focus .

  4. OK – I’ll get it going for everyone –

    Bryan – Trump is my sky daddy.

    James – Trump sucks!



    PS – this post is just for humor and should not be taken seriously… No commentators were hurt in this satirical rendition of past comment sections. Have a great day folks!

Leave a Reply