Chugach National Forest Avalanche Information Center

Snow has been dumping around southcentral. If you’re into skiing, snowboarding or snowmachining, you’ve probably been dreaming about getting out into the mountains to enjoy it. 

But with good snow does come avalanche risk. And it is important for recreationists to know what they’re getting into before they head out and up.

Hannah Etengoff

For four and a half hours Monday night, the only road to the Kenai Peninsula was blocked in both directions by an avalanche near Summit Lake.

The avalanche hit around 4:20. Hannah Etengoff was driving back home to Kenai with her husband and dogs.


Stay out of the backcountry from Girdwood down to Seward today. There’s an avalanche warning for Turnagain Pass following Monday’s storm, whose wintry mix of precipitation and wind creates the perfect conditions for an avalanche.

“The storm, as you know, is quite warm,” said Wendy Wagner of the Chugach National Forest Avalanche Information Center. “And when we really get these warm, wet, powerful storms, the avalanche hazard increases dramatically and we start seeing big avalanches that can run all the way down to the valley bottom and even sea level.”

Chugach National Forest Avalanche Information Center

A Kasilof man died in an avalanche while snowmachining near Cooper Landing on Monday afternoon. Thirty-two-year-old Kekai Dang was caught in a slab avalanche on a 45-degree slope while riding from Snug Harbor Road south of Cooper Landing. The accident happened about halfway between Cooper Lake to the northwest and Lost Lake to the southeast.

According to an Alaska State Troopers report, witnesses immediately began recovery efforts, but it took two hours to locate and remove Dang from the snow. Troopers were called to the scene around 3:20 p.m. 

ChuChugach National Forest Avalanche Information Center

Since 2001, the Chugach National Forest Avalanche Information Center has been providing information to keep winter recreation enthusiasts safe in the backcountry around Girdwood, Turnagain Pass and Summit Lake. 

Knowing weather and snowpack data only goes so far, though, without an understanding of how avalanches work and what forecasts mean. To bridge that gap, the information center offers periodic classes and training throughout its coverage area, and one of those classes is coming to Soldotna on Tuesday. 

Forecaster Aleph Johnston-Bloom will hold an avalanche awareness class at 6 p.m. Feb. 4 at Odie's Deli in Soldotna. 

"It's great for both people who are new to learning about avalanches and a good review. And it covers five different areas that are all part of what's called, 'know before you go,'" Johnston-Bloom said.

Warm storm expected over south central this weekend

Dec 5, 2019


Backcountry enthusiasts were rewarded for their patience this week, with a long-awaited heavy snowfall covering much of south central Alaska. But more patience will likely be needed before the best opportunities for snow sports are ready.