Winter is officially underway in Alaska, and that means residents will be heading to the hills to romp in the snow in a variety of winter sports (or already have). But avalanche danger is real and deadly, and it comes with the territory. So it's important to be informed and aware of the conditions in your area. Worry not -- the Chugach National Forest Avalanche Information Center (AIC) has your back.
The government agency has reopened for the winter, producing backcountry recreational avalanche advisories, warnings, and public education. Starting Nov. 17, the center will be issuing daily advisories.
The Chugach AIC writes that in general "this is shaping up to be a season where the phrase 'if it's steep enough to ride, it's steep enough to slide, rings true'," meaning that although snow cover is still minimal, slab avalanches have already slid down mountainsides, near and above the treeline.
Last season, the Chugach Range had a generally stable, deep snowpack. To date this season, however, a slab avalanche problem has developed due to a layer of very weak snow, 3 to 10 inches thick, with a layer of strong snow, 4 to 18 inches, lying on top.
There have already been public observations of avalanches in the Turnagain area.
The AIC offers avalanche safety training free of charge to the public, and will also be hosting Fireside Chats starting Thursday and running through the end of the year.