Glide Crack Mountain Goes Active

Glide cracks are not that common around Valdez compared to the Turnigan Pass recreational areas. The areas we recreate are mostly void of glide cracks, thus we don’t think of them as a daily hazard while backcountry skiing. Like cornices, they are largely unpredictable and thus require some respect and distance especially when naturally active.

Glide cracks, at least from my perspective, can be best defined as an avalanche that stopped just under the crown due to lack of adequate slope angles. They typically release to the ground on smooth slopes mainly consisting of grass or smooth rock, leaving visible dirt and ground. They can appear as a “frown” on a mountainside.

Glide Crack Mountain is located across from the airport and is visible to anyone driving into Valdez. Every winter fractures occur in various areas mainly at mid-mountain. When first spotted, the immediate reaction is “Wow look at that!” as they may be the only flaw on a perfect slope. The fact that this particular mountain offers a steep, sunny southerly aspect helps in predictability, along with a history of observed annual occurrence, also called a “repeater”.

Currently the mountain has two active areas. One slipped and stopped about a week ago, a glide crack. The other is a glide avalanche that occurred in the last 24 hours.

As we progress towards spring, glide cracks will continue on Glide Crack Mountain and a few other areas above the Tsaina River’s upper drainages. With this season unusual snowpack and density, some may be larger than normal.