Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Weekly Anchorage Ski Outlook

Nitty Gritty

Thurs – Fri: clear, cold, windy, no sun effect (high confidence). Winds will be the strongest tonight, temperatures will be coldest on Thursday night. Expect the worst winds along the highway corridor (Chugach Front Range, Turnagain Arm, Turnagain Pass corridor, Seward, Whittier, Portage). These winds hit channeled terrain and the Front Range the worst.

Weekend: warm, stormy (high confidence). Storm totals will likely be less than a foot, snow will begin during the day Saturday, Sunday looks to be snowier (particularly for Hatcher), all southcentral ski zones will see accumulation. Rain/snow line will be at/near sea level. Temperatures will warm thru weekend.

Early Next Week: moderate temps, light snowfall, some sun (low confidence). A small storm front will pass thru our region on Monday night, it will likely clip the Kenai Mountains, and will bring cloud to the rest of the zone.  With moderate temps there will be sun effect on steep south faces when the sun comes out.

Dirty Details
The ongoing strong winds are due to cold, dense air from the interior flowing “downhill” towards the low in the Gulf of AK. These winds are being strengthened by strong upper atmosphere winds blowing out of the arctic and dragging cold air with them. These winds are lazy and favor passes, gaps, and channeled terrain as they funnel to the coast. The figure below shows these upper winds carrying these strong Arctic air south:

On Saturday, a storm front will ride southwesterly upper atmosphere winds into Southcentral. A second low will follow on its heels Sunday. For both of these systems, upper level flow will be from the southwest. Upper level southwest winds allow snowfall for Hatcher Pass and the Chugach Front Range, as opposed to upper level southeast winds which favor snowfall for the Kenai/Girdwood and generally turn off snowfall for Hatcher/Front Range. This upper level wind setup is shown below:

Early week next the storm track will move to our south, turning off significant precipitation to our zone. A storm riding the storm track will likely clip our region on Monday night. Confidence is low because each model run has not consistently predicted the timing or impact of this system on our region, but have generally trended our precipitation forecast down - it is unlikely to be significant. The figure below shows how consecutive model runs are forecasting SWE (snow water equivalent) for the Kenai Mountains early next week.  Model time is in Greenwich Mean Time (Zulu), subtract 9 hours to get local AK time.

Monday, February 11, 2019

Castle Mountain - 3.11.2015

Updated 1.29.2019 to include another great day in Chickaloon.

"Are those the Northern Lights?"

"I think so."

It was 6:30 AM, -6 degrees, and Meg and I were running hill sprints to start out the day.

"Your legs are going to be barking!"

The day's goal.

A couple hours later I found myself pacing around my house. Where to ski? How much would it make my legs bark? I really didn't want to deal with my sled which is exactly why I wasn't making a decision.

Approaching the couloir entrance.

The impetus to move was a message from Tarah confirming the existence of the Chickaloon zone. I called Alex: "I'm running late, how about Chickaloon? Also, I still need to load up my sled, so its gonna be even later." Alex was running late too, so no problem.


Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Korohusk - 4.8.2017

Updated 1.29.2019 to include another great day on Korohusk.

The first time we skied Korohusk, Carpathian had been the day before. Then, to start the day, we sent Tarah and Max's Subaru backwards and sideways down Mariah Drive and into a ditch. When Tarah got out she promptly ended up on the ice under her car. When I got out I ended up on my face in the ditch 100 meters below the car.

I was hoping things would be equally exciting this time around. Fortunately, last week I managed to contract the plague, so things were looking up for an adventure! Apparently there was widespread collapsing as we skinned up the valley, but I did not notice such minor details thru the haze of sinus headaches and snot rockets. Arriving at the head of the valley the snow deepened and signs of instability decreased.

Photo: Zack Fields

We started with the Korohusk's pinner couloir. Its an unusual one, the right wall is really just a large flake, which disappears at points. Maybe Alex is covering his face to avoid peering off the edge?


I spent most of the climb raving about how much I loved my Verts and how I couldn't imagine anyone climbing anything without them. Tony does not have Verts, I bet he loved the constant reminder of how much harder his day was.

Photo: Zack Fields

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Return to TT43 - 1.5.2019

Watching old school GoPro video of Jimmy Kase ripping the TT43 spines on teles in midwinter light sold me on Alaska. After years of waiting for snow, stability, and weather to align we finally got to experience it.

As we drove south thru the pass, the bottom fell out of the thermometer. By the time we parked at Bertha Creek it was -8 degrees. Next up, was finding a way across the creek. Matt found a crossing and lead the charge across the cold water creek. Eventually the twig he was standing on collapsed, but he hovered over the water and kept his feet dry.


In retrospect, parking at Cornbiscuit and using the bridge would have been straightforward. Still, it was drier than skiing TT43 with Matt and Nick years ago:


We followed ptarmigan and hare tracks across the valley and up the climb to Seattle Ridge. Above the valley inversion the temperature rose to 10 degrees. Tropical.

Monday, November 12, 2018

Pioneer Peak - 3.30.2018

Over the last two days Brian and Sam had both skied Pioneer, and it was about to get a refresh - it was time to go get it. Only two small problems: I didn't own ice tools, and Alex had a project due at work. Easily remedied. That night I went to REI, and Alex called in sick with a bad case of powder fever.

Pioneer's giant north face towering over Palmer.

The next morning found us driving back and forth on the Old Glenn looking for the north face trail-head. After a few laps we'd located the appropriate thicket and were skinning into the alders. Within 500 vertical feet we'd reached the avy debris and were soon climbing mellow ice.


I'd never used ice tools before, and was pleased to see how much better they performed than my finger nails and running shoes. Kind of like being a cyborg.