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Avalanche danger lessens a bit, but Turnagain Pass backcountry still dicey

Alaska Dispatch

While the avalanche danger below treeline in southcentral Alaska's Turnagain Pass lessened slightly on Friday, specialists with the Chugach National Forest Avalanche Information Center continued to warn recreational skiers and snowmachiners to avoid the backcountry.

“The avalanche hazard remains high,” wrote forecaster John Fitzgerald on the center’s website.  “Terrain above treeline harbors large areas of slab, including wind slabs, that will be very sensitive to human triggers.

“Those of you who have ventured out into the mountains this week have witnessed this firsthand, getting machines stuck in the weak snow and enduring arduous trail breaking. Below 1,000 feet we have wet snow due to rain falling over the past 24 hours. It all boils down to the fact that we have a lot of new snow sitting on multiple weak layers.”

Some 7 inches of fresh snow fell Thursday night and early Friday morning, bringing  the storm total in Turnagain Pass to more than 50 inches. And additional 3 inches were expected later Friday.

All the fresh snow has left the state Department of Transportation and Alyeska Resort working to trigger avalanches in an effort to avoid dangerous surprises.

At Alyeska, the top of Chair 6 received another 5 inches of snow overnight, boosting the average snow depth there to 78 inches