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Huge snow dump at Turnagain Pass, Alyeska brings avalanche warnings

Craig MedredAlaska Dispatch

Powder hounds got a gift from the gods Christmas Day, with a huge dump of fresh snow at Alyeska Ski Resort in Girdwood and farther south at Turnagain Pass. 

But there can be too much of good thing. “Skiers and riders got a big Christmas present today in the form of the biggest storm of the year,” wrote avalanche forecaster Kevin Wright of the Chugach National Forest Avalanche Information Center on Tuesday.  “Unfortunately it's too much to play with today.  Girdwood and Turnagain Pass are trying to adjust to 2 to 3 feet of new snow in the last 24 hours, which has the avalanche danger pegged at high.”

On Tuesday, the National Weather Service issued a backcountry avalanche warning for the Kenai and Western Chugach Mountains in and around the eastern Turnagain Arm Area, warning that “dangerous human-triggered avalanches are likely.”

At Turnagain Pass, Wright noted, “with this much snow we can expect large avalanches to run down into valley bottoms, making safe areas difficult to determine even below treeline.  The best travel advice today is to stay away from the Kenai Peninsula or go to Alyeska.”

There was plenty of fresh snow at Alaska’s largest ski resort, too, but professional crews routinely shoot down snow wherever avalanche risk develops. Three feet of fresh snow dumped at the top of Alyeska’s Chair 6 in 12 hours, more than doubling this winter's snow cover on the top of Mount Alyeska. Midway got plenty of fresh powder, too – some 29 inches in 12 hours, while 6 inches piled up at the base.

More snow was in the forecast for the rest of the week, too.  Check the resort’s snow report here. Or look for yourself on Alyeska’s webcams here.