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

Advisory for the Salt Lake Area Mountains

Issued by Drew Hardesty for Sunday, January 28, 2018 - 6:23am

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. A MODERATE danger also exists for fresh wind drifts along the higher elevations.

The safest and arguably best riding conditions can be found on the shady, sheltered terrain on low angle slopes with no overhead hazard.

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Weather and Snow

We'll see a trace to an inch of snow with riming possible. Winds should lose some steam over the course of the day as the skies trend party cloudy by afternoon. Temps will be in the mid 20s, marching toward the low 30s (even at ridgetop level) by tomorrow. Tomorrow should be partly cloudy, warm, with light wind. Looking down the road, the ridge of high pressure retrogrades west and amplifiies, keeping us under an unsettled and cool northwest flow through the week. Possible snow for next weekend.

Recent Avalanches

Mark Staples, Trent Meisenheimer, and Mark White have the final accident report here from Friday'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. Below is Trent's standard Banff-worthy video production as usual.

Video on our YouTube channel here.

No avalanche activity reported yesterday from the backcountry or at the resorts, however, 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 Friday'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. Comprehensive list here.

Avalanche Problem #1
Persistent Weak Layer

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. Look at the photos of the Meadow Chutes accident. You'll see days-old tracks into the crown. Note that it was their 6th run in the terrain. The avalanche itself was triggered from a distance - the skier wasn't even on that particular piece of snow that fractured.

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
Wind Drifted Snow

Thick and dense wind drifts may be found along the higher elevations, but perhaps further down the slope than expected. They'll be more pronounced on steep north to southeast facing slopes and even cross-loaded onto steep southwest and southerly aspects. Look for rounded, pillowy features around rocky outcrops, beyond subridges into adjacent gullies, and in the lee of other terrain features.

General Announcements


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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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