Cordova Snow Observations

A relatively small fraction of terrain often frequented by backcountry travelers has a professional daily avalanche forecast available. For this reason, the Alaska Avalanche Information Center encourages users to share what they see.

Please contribute your avalanche, snow and weather observations in the comments below. It could help save lives!

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  1. Submitted from Hoots Witsoe, Cordova Avalanche forecaster:
    Cordova Avalanche Season Summary 2011-2012

    Last winter, precipitation fell heavy as normal for a rain forest. Usually, we get a fair amount of rain to keep the height of snow in check. Last winter, however, temperatures averaged a little colder, allowing precipitation to fall as mostly snow to sea level. The relentless snow fall quickly overwhelmed town. Snow removal couldn’t keep up. Roofs collapsed. Even our ski lift became buried too deep to operate. While snow removal became a nightmare, the snowpack stayed rather stable. Temperatures slowly decreased and no significant weak layers existed. Alas, with so much dry, loose snow, you didn’t need an avalanche to get buried. Eventually, temperatures started to warm while snow fall continued. This created several very large avalanches. A size 4 occurred in our backyard, taking out old growth trees including at a spot we used to consider safe. A few avalanches crossed the highway, but no backcountry accidents occurred. At this point it seems everybody was too busy shoveling to really enjoy the snow. A state of emergency was declared January 6th. Operation “Snowpocalypse” brought the National Guard and more snow removal equipment. Despite the work load, we were able to provide an Avalanche Awareness and Level 1 course. By the end of March, the height of snow reached over 6 feet at sea level, and up to 20 feet at 1500 feet. Our 6 meter snow stake nearly disappeared before shearing from creep. April suddenly became unseasonably warm. Glide cracks appeared everywhere, with a few releasing big. A large glide crack broke within the ground, creating a large land and snow slide that crossed the highway; the strong smell of fresh dirt permeated the air. More snow fell to sea level into mid May. Statistically speaking, the winter was probably a hundred year event. Fortunately, avalanche damage was limited to several trees.

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