11th Annual Utah Snow & Avalanche Workshop Open and Motorized Sessions Oct. 27th.
Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Avalanche activity has subsided the past few days and that's good news. However, we have an unusual snowpack structure for the western Uinta's right now. No... it's not a bottomless sandbox. On the contrary, it's actually comprised of a complex mix of crusts and fragile, sugary facets sandwiched in between. So... the snowpack has body and it has structure. It also has the Christmas storm on top that consolidated into a cohesive slab. While the lack of recent avalanche activity suggests the slab has relaxed, we can't ignore the fact that we have all the ingredients for a slab avalanche. Though not widespread, I bet there's still a steep, wind drifted  slope or two just waiting for a trigger like us to come along and knock the legs out from underneath it.

Our problem child buried in the midpack is a persistent weakness and that's an issue because anything "persistent" in the snowpack takes a long time to heal. But we don't need to roll the dice and hope for the best. The way we manage this avalanche dragon is avoidance. Simply avoid the terrain the avalanche dragon lives in...  steep, mid and upper elevation, wind drifted slopes, especially those facing the north half of the compass. 

Chad was in the Hoyt Peak environs on Tuesday and experienced multiple large collapses as well as some interesting snowpit stability test scores. Click here for all the deets.

The good news is, you don't have to stay home and hide under your bed. There's plenty of good riding on low angle slopes and big open meadows like the one pictured above, where you can ride and you don't even have to deal with the persistent slab issue.














Persistent Weak Layer
Special Announcement: 

Big thanks to Salt Valley Snowmobile Club for sponsoring and maintaining this beacon checker at Soapstone. Not hard to miss and it's up and running in the main parking lot.

Current Conditions: 

Skies are clear, winds light and northerly, and it's sorta warm for January. Registering in the upper 20's and low 30's, temperatures are inverted... a few degrees warmer than in the City of Salt this morning. Riding and turning conditions are hit or miss. Recent winds have jacked a lot of the big open, upper elevation terrain, but soft snow is still found on mid elevation, wind protected slopes. 


Above are 24 hour temperatures and snow depth from Trial Lake along with winds and temperatures from Windy Peak. More remote Uinta weather stations are found here

Recent trip reports and findings can be seen here 

Trailheads are thin and boney, but with some elevation gain you'll find resonable riding conditions with fresh, clean air.

With it's easy access, Wolf Creek Pass is a seamless pre or post work grab. However... just 'cause you can see your rig from the ridge, doesn't mean the snowpack is good to go or shares your same level of stoke. Click here to view a great viddy and recent observation from this zone... thanks Dylan and Eric!





Recent Activity: 



In Chalk Creek, a rider was caught, carried, buried, and injured. Fortunately at the end of the day the rider came home... his sled however might need a rebuild. Ted's great viddy recap is found HERE  Riders first hand account is posted here.


12-26-17 We spotted this remotely triggered slide that's 3' deep x 500' wide on a steep wind drifted slope in Campbell Hollow. Click HERE for a viddy highlighting Mill Hollow avalanche activity.



Ted and I rolled onto this slide on Double Hill just as the dust was settling. Averaging 4' deep and over 700' wide, this avalanche was triggered low on an adjacent slope. This is the kind of unpredictable avalanche dragon we're dealing with right now. Click HERE for more beta and a short viddy describing what we're seeing on the North Slope. More on this slide and other region-wide reports click here.


Yesterday, Ted found this recent activity on Double Hill. More on his travels here.

Mountain Weather: 

Skies will be mostly sunny with temperatures climbing into the low 40's with overnight lows in the 20's. Ridgetop winds remain light and northerly. A gradual warming trend is on tap through Friday. The models are still struggling for a solution on Saturday's storm and I'll have a better handle on what that looks like for tomorrow's update.






Bottom Line: 

At and above treeline, in mid and upper elevation terrain, the avalanche danger is MODERATE. Human triggered avalanches are POSSIBLE, especially on steep, wind drifted slopes, and particularly on slopes facing the north half of the compass.

Low elevation terrain, most south facing slopes, and terrain that held no snow prior to the Christmas Eve storm offer generally LOW avalanche danger.

Wind Drifted Snow

Winds have been all over the map and they're loading slopes in an unusual fashion. While found mostly along the leeward side of mid and upper elevation ridges, I wouldn't be too surprised to find stiff drifts cross-loaded around terrain features like chutes and gully walls. Today you'll want to look for and avoid any fat, rounded piece of snow, especially if it sounds hollow like a drum. The snowpack is still relatively thin and the bummer with low tide conditions is, triggering even a small slide greatly increases your chances of slamming into a season ending rock or stump. 

Remember- shooting cracks out in front of your skis, board, or sled is a big red flag and clue to potentially unstable snow.





General Announcements: 

The information in this advisory expires 24 hours after the date and time posted, but will be updated by 7:00 AM Thursday January 4, 2018.

If you're getting out and about, please let me know what you're seeing especially if you see or trigger and avalanche. I can be reached at craig@utahavalanchecenter.org or 801-231-2170

It's also a good time to set up one of our very popular avalanche awareness classes. Reach out to me and I'll make it happen.

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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