The avalanche problem to pay attention to the most is persistent slab avalanches. With recent load of new snow, the danger remains Considerable on mid and upper elevations on NW, N, NE and E aspects. There is a widespread layer of weak facets near a layer of dust that will produce more avalanches. Below is a photo of this layer from Cascade mountain showing where it fractures. The snowpack in the Provo area mountains is generally much weaker and more unstable than the snowpack in mountains to the north.
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This Thursday and Saturday (March 8th & 10th) Be prepared if going snowshoeing - Snowshoe Backcountry 101 Introduction to Avalanches at Brighton Resort. Two snowshoers were killed in an avalanche in Washington just over a week ago. Get educated or recommend this class to a friend.
This morning temperatures are in the teens F and at upper elevations in the single digits F. Winds at high ridgetops are blowing 10-15 mph gusting to 20 mph from the West. This weekend's storm delivered 10-16" in the Provo area mountains. Yesterday no new snow fell and mostly cloudy skies kept the sun at bay and maintained cold temperatures.
Yesterday, most ski patrols easily triggered many avalanches at ridgetops in the SLC area mountains. These slides mostly involved the new snow and wind blown snow. A few notable exceptions were:
- UDOT triggered a slide in East Hellgate in Little Cottonwood Canyon that broke near an obvious layer of dust in the snowpack.
- Two days ago, a large slide in the Park City mountains broke on a layer of facets formed early in February and buried by snow and wind-blown snow from the past month. This slide was 150' wide and up to 10' deep.
- Snowmobilers triggered a 3' deep by 45' wide slide in Mary Ellen gulch
- A regular observer spotted a slide in Butler Fork of Big Cottonwood Canyon that broke about 3-4 feet deep and 200 feet wide (Photo - M. White).
I was on Cascade Mountain with UDOT avalanche workers yesterday, and we spotted this recent natural avalanche on Cascade mountain. It was about 3 feet deep and 800 feet wide. It's hard to see but notice how far downhill the flank (or side) of this avalanche extends downhill.
Clear skies today will allow the strong March sun to quickly warm this morning's cold temperatures. Air temperatures should rise to near freezing but it will feel a lot warmer in the sun especially compared to yesterday. A few high clouds are possible late this afternoon. Winds should blow 5-15 mph from the NW with gusts of 25 mph. The rest of this week will be dry with steadily warming temperatures.
Despite a cold morning, the strong March sunshine should quickly warm southerly facing slopes. The first day new snow receives strong sunshine and heat is always a red flag for loose wet avalanches. The riding quality on sun exposed slopes should deteriorate as the danger for this problem rises. You may see pinwheels or rollerballs tumbling downhill especially under exposed rock bands as an indication that loose, wet avalanches may start occuring. The main threat isn't triggering one, but having one hit you from above.
Aside from the two primary problems listed above. Some storm slab and wind slab avalanches remain possible. These are becoming less likely but the possibility remains. Photo below shows an example of a small storm slab avalanche triggered yesterday at the head of Big Cottonwood Canyon. Also, watch out for large cornices that have grown even larger with recent snowfall. These monsters may break closer to the ridge than you'd expect.
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This information does not apply to developed ski areas or highways where avalanche control is normally done. This advisory is from the U.S.D.A. Forest Service, which is solely responsible for its content. This advisory describes general avalanche conditions and local variations always occur.