High avalanche danger in Girdwood, Portage, Turnagain, officials say

A map generated by the National Avalanche Center shows high warning area for Girdwood, Portage, and Turnagain areas on March 14, 2019.
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ANCHORAGE (KTUU) - In the same week that avalanches have claimed the lives of two men - a skier and a snowboarder - officials have issued a code red or "high" warning on the avalanche danger scale for popular ski and snowboard regions.

The map encompasses all of Girdwood, Portage, and Turnagain Pass areas, and officials with the Chugach National Forest Avalanche Information Center say it could impact an even broader area as the heavy snowfall continues.

The highest risk is specifically posed to skiing, snowboarding, and snowmachining in the areas, as CNFAIC said dangerous avalanche conditions are expected on all slopes 30 degrees and steeper - including runout zones.

[READ MORE: Alaska man killed in avalanche near Crescent Lake, AST reports]

[READ MORE: Second man killed in Alaska avalanches in same week, authorities say]

"Avalanches are expected to release naturally, be easily triggered by people and send debris to valley floors," officials wrote in a release. "Travel in avalanche terrain is NOT recommended. Even small terrain features could act as deadly traps."

Heather Thamm, an avalanche tracker for the National Forest, said there could be high danger across the whole Kenai Peninsula, and it could extend into next week.

"Due to the storm systems predicted to keep piling on snow, it would keep the avalanche danger elevated through this weekend," Thamm said.

This would include areas not isolated in the mapped region, extending to Kenai and the Western Chugach Mountains in and around Eastern Turnagain Arm, Summit Lake, and Seward. Those regions are included due to heavy snowfall and strong winds, increasing the risk of avalanches.

Alicia King, spokesperson for the Chugach National Forest, said, "We urge people to always check for avalanche conditions" and also to follow safety practices such as informing others where you are planning to ski or snowboard.

"It's important to tell someone where you'll be going and when you'll be back," King said.

Avalanche conditions can be checked on the National Avalanche Center map online. Additional tips are to have basic avalanche training, be prepared with beacons, probes and SAT phones when possible, and heed avalanche danger warnings.

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