The Chugach National Forest Avalanche Information Center has raised the avalanche advisory for the Chugach area to "considerable" above the tree line. This is due to the recent trends in weather.
Wendy Wagner, an avalanche forecaster with the Information Center, described the effect the last few weeks of weather have had on the risk of avalanches. She said the weeks of low temperatures with little to no snow set the groundwork for an avalanche risk.
The extreme cold has affected the small amount of snow on the ground, causing it to become granular and very slippery. Wagner likened it to a layer of ball bearings, onto which a big layer of fresh snow was recently dumped. That instability of the landscape, coupled with the outdoor enthusiasts enjoying the fresh snow, can quickly lead to disaster, she said.
The center offers the following advice for avalanche preparedness while in Alaska's back country:
1. Always carry avalanche rescue equipment. This includes a beacon, a shovel, and a probe.
2. Only expose one member of your group at a time to new snow.
3. Watch for clues of avalanche risk. This can mean being perceptive enough to notice when there has been recent avalanche activity--a sign of instability--or as simple as checking the information center's website.
The website's forecast is updated daily at 7 a.m.