11th Annual Utah Snow & Avalanche Workshop Open and Motorized Sessions Oct. 27th.

Advisory for the Salt Lake Area Mountains

Issued by Drew Hardesty for Saturday, January 27, 2018 - 4:54am

A scary MODERATE danger exists in the mid and upper elevation west to north to easterly facing slopes. Human triggered avalanches 1-3'+ deep remain possible in this terrain. Evaluate snow and terrain carefully. The good news is that one doesn't need steep west to north to east facing slopes to enjoy world class powder. Keep the slope angles low; watch for overhead hazard. Shallow wind drifts and point release sluffs are also possible in the steeper terrain today.

If the winds pick up earlier than expected, the danger for wind drifts will rise accordingly.

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Weather and Snow

A warm air advection pattern sets up for the next 18 hours or so, with veering winds, warming temperatures, and perhaps a good rime event overnight, particularly in areas north of I-80. The Logan area mountains may even see a trace to an inch of snow. For today, we'll have increasing clouds, 20mph winds from the southwest, and ridgetop temps warming to the upper teens. 11,000' winds tonight may see hourly speeds of 40-45mph with gusts to 60. Expect some clearing by Sunday afternoon/evening with mostly clear skies and temps reaching into the low 30s by Monday.

Recent Avalanches

Mark Staples has the preliminary accident report here from yesterday's avalanche incident in the Meadow Chutes of Silver Fork (BCC). It's a complicated event, but in a nutshell, one skier waiting mid-way down the slope was engulfed by a remotely triggered avalanche from above and subsequently carried over 600' down the slope. Fortunately he was not buried, but suffered injury. Stabilization was provided by his partners (one an ER doc) with evacuation shouldered by Solitude ski patrol, Wasatch Backcountry Rescue, and Intermountain Life Flight. We'll have more information by this evening.

Elsewhere across the range, others reported shallow soft slabs and wind drifts, with occasional moderate sluffing in the steepest terrain.


In the past week alone, we've had three very close calls in the central Wasatch - two along the Park City ridgeline (No Name and Pointy Peak) and now yesterday's accident just "right across the street" of Big Cottonwood Canyon in Silver Fork. These three persistent slab avalanches were all east to northeast facing between 9300' and 9600' with skiers taking rides hundreds of feet down the slope. Heat-map below of human triggered avalanches from the past week with comprehensive list here.

Avalanche Problem #1
Persistent Weak Layer
Type
Location
Likelihood
Size
Description

Our persistent slab problem isn't going to heal overnight. And even if stability slowly increases over time, these avalanches may continue to spring out of dormancy with each subsequent loading event. These avalanches are insidious: they continue to occur with many tracks already on the slope, with no signs of cracking or collapsing, and each often triggered from a distance. It's why expert intution is impossible with these types of avalanches and even the most experienced practitioners are surprised. It reminds me of 2010 when many very experienced people were caught off-guard (myself included) by a similar snowpack structure - with in particular a fatality nearly eight years ago to the day in the Meadow Chutes of Silver Fork.

Avalanche Problem #2
Normal Caution
Type
Location
Likelihood
Size
Description

Shallow wind drifts and loose snow sluffing may be expected in steep, high elevation, exposed terrain. Remember that your risk is amplified by your terrain choices. Taking a ride in a shallow sluff in the "steep and rad couloir" is problematic if said rider is pinballing between the walls and bouncing over cliffbands. The glade avalanches, too, host their own issues with slides straining avalanche victims through trees.

The take-home point here: Slow down. Consider the consequences of being caught and carried.

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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.

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