Issued: 3:02 PM PST Saturday, March 3, 2018
by Robert Hahn

NWAC avalanche forecasts apply to backcountry avalanche terrain in the Olympics, Washington Cascades and Mt Hood area. These forecasts do not apply to developed ski areas, avalanche terrain affecting highways and higher terrain on the volcanic peaks above the Cascade crest level.

UPDATED 1:20 PM March 3rd: There has been an avalanche involvement reported today. Initial reports indicate multiple-burial near Gallaher Head Lake (Kittitas County). 

You can trigger Wind Slabs near and above treeline on leeward slopes. These could result in dangerous Persistent Slab avalanches that are difficult to manage and can break widely. Avoid wind loaded areas and large open slopes 35 degrees and steeper. 

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Avalanche Problems for Saturday

Wind Slabi

Wind slabs can take up to a week to stabilize. They are confined to lee and cross-loaded terrain features and can be avoided by sticking to sheltered or wind scoured areas.

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Persistent Slabi

Persistent slabs can be triggered by light loads and weeks after the last storm. You can trigger them remotely and they often propagate across and beyond terrain features that would otherwise confine wind and storm slabs. Give yourself a wide safety buffer to handle the uncertainty.

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Forecast for Saturday:

You can trigger Wind Slab avalanches at upper elevations where drifted wind features exist. Avoid these avalanches by staying off of recent snow drifts, deeply pillowed features, and fresh cornices on leeward slopes 35 degrees and steeper. Soft non-wind-effected snow may cover wind slabs making them harder to identify. With fresh snow and sunny skies, you may see some small loose avalanches release on steep slopes, today. If you trigger an avalanche in the upper snowpack, it could dig down and become a dangerously large Persistent Slab avalanche.

You can trigger Persistent Slab avalanches on slopes 35 degrees and steeper. Avoid steep, open slopes and large avalanche paths to reduce your risk of these difficult to manage avalanches. Weak sugar-like facets can be found just above a firm crust layer formed in early February on all but south aspects. This layer is down about 2-4 feet. You may also be able to trigger shallower Persistent Slab avalanches in the upper snowpack on steep sunny slopes.

Avalanche Summary:

Up to 2 feet of snow fell near Hurricane Ridge in the past week. Winds as recent as Thursday formed Wind Slabs on a variety of aspects near and above treeline. In sheltered areas generally soft unconsolidated surface snow exists.

Some observations suggest other persistent grains may exist at the interface of this weeks snow. Facet crust combinations, buried surface hoar, and large preserved stellars have been reported in recent avalanches and snowpack tests at this interface from the West Slopes of the Cascades.

An active storm cycle began a week ago Friday. By Monday morning about 2 ft of new snow had accumulated in the Hurricane Ridge area.  

About 3 or more ft of of settled snow sits on top of the weak sugary facets that formed on a strong crust earlier in February. Snowpack tests continue to suggest that these facets can fail and produce avalanches. This layer has not been reported on South aspects in the Hurricane Ridge area.

There are no other significant layers of concern in the mid and lower snowpack.


On Friday, March 2nd, NPS rangers reported a large avalanche on a recently wind loaded slope. Elsewhere, profiles showed a faceted weak layer buried in mid- February was found 2-4 feet below the surface and was showing some signs of rounding.

On Thursday, Feb 22, Matt Schonwald and NPS rangers observed 20-30 inches of generally right-side-up surface snow over weaker snow (facets). Snowpack tests indicated the weak facet layer could still fail and produce avalanches. Northeast winds during the day Thursday redistributed snow onto SW-W-NW aspects.

No Corresponding Mountain Weather Forecast Available


This Backcountry Avalanche Forecast is provided in conjunction with the US Forest Service, and is intended for personal and recreational purposes only. Safe backcountry travel requires preparation and planning, and this information may be used for planning purposes but does not provide all the information necessary for backcountry travel. Advanced avalanche education is strongly encouraged.

The user acknowledges that it is impossible to accurately predict natural events such as avalanches in every instance, and the accuracy or reliability of the data provided here is not guaranteed in any way. This forecast describes general avalanche conditions and local variations will always occur. This forecast expires 24 hours after the posted time unless noted otherwise.