Forecaster Blogs

Blog: Week in Review (Feb 17-24) - 02/24/2017 - Greg Gagne
Week in Review A series of weather systems on a southwest flow arrived over Friday through Sunday Feb 17/18/19 with storm totals of up to 24" in the Cottonwoods, 14" in the Park City mountains, 18" Ogden mountains, and 6" at the mid elevations in the Provo mountains. Storm densities were Cascade-like with water totals exceeding 2". Sunday was an especially active day with several skier-triggered avalanches reported from the backcountry. These slides included both storm snow as well as fresh wind slabs, and were running within the storm snow as well as a layer of faceted snow that formed Feb...


Blog: Week in Review (Feb 10-16) - 02/17/2017 - Greg Gagne
Snowfall Friday and Saturday Feb 10/11 deposited 10-20" in the Salt Lake mountains with over 2" of water equivalent. Avalanche activity on Saturday included sensitive storm and wind slabs, as well as sluffing within the storm snow, with several human-triggered avalanches reported from the backcountry. Two notable natural avalanches in upper White Pine Canyon also occurred over the weekend. These were likely caused by natural cornice falls and triggered large storm slabs that failed on a layer of graupel down about 12-18". [Photos Hardesty/Pease] Fresh wind slabs from a period of easterly...


Blog: Hindsight 20/40 - A Companion Piece to #NothingBadHappened - 02/15/2017 - Drew Hardesty
This is meant to be a companion piece to an earlier essay #NothingBadHappened (photo credit: Mark White) 20/40 Hindsight   All too often, we find ourselves unable to predict what will happen; yet after the fact we explain what did happen with a great deal of confidence. This “ability” to explain that which we cannot predict, even in the absence of additional information, represents an important, though subtle, flaw in our reasoning.  It leads us to believe that there is a less uncertain world than there actually is, and that we are less bright than we actually might be.  For if we can explain...


Blog: Week in Review (Feb 3-9) - 02/10/2017 - Greg Gagne
Week in Review 4-6” of snowfall fell in the Cottonwoods and Park City mountains from Thursday Feb 2 through Saturday Feb 4, with some favored locations along the Park City ridgeline receiving upwards of 8”. Persistent winds also resulted in isolated human-triggered wind slabs releasing in upper elevations over the weekend. [Mark White photo] Monday marked the beginning of a period of warm and very windy conditions with heavy, wet snowfall and a rain/snow line reaching 8000'. Snow and water totals by Wednesday included: Salt Lake area mountains 6-8" snow with 1" water. As is often the case...


Blog: Week in Review - 02/4/2017 - Greg Gagne
Friday January 27 was a stunning bright and bluebird day, with several feet of fresh snow that had fallen the prior eight days. However, six human triggered avalanches were reported that day, primarily in the Park City mountains as well as Lambs Canyon and Summit Park in Parleys Canyon. These occurred in elevations ranging from 7600’ - 9400’ and on northwest through southeast aspects. The weak layers were either preserved surface hoar or near surface facets, buried down 2-3’ in the snowpack.  Trent produced an excellent video recap of the avalanche that occurred on Sound of Music in the Park...


Blog: Jan 20-27 Weekly Summary - 01/30/2017 - Greg Gagne
Week in Review by Greg Gagne Wow. A prolonged period of storms began late in the day on Friday Jan 20th, with an overachieving storm on Saturday the 21st with numerous human-triggered as well as natural avalanches occurring over the weekend. (Mark Staples described the activity of the weekend of Jan 21/22.)  Strong winds and heavy snowfall led to an avalanche warning issued by the UAC on Monday and Tuesday January 23/24 for the mountains of northern Utah. Little Cottonwood Canyon was closed beginning on Monday morning due to dangerous avalanche activity, and did not re-open until later...


Blog: Avalanche Summary - 22 Jan 2017 - 01/22/2017 - Mark Staples
  The number one clue for avalanches is avalanches. Let's start with a summary of results from ski areas and highways. The snowpack in ski areas is different from what we see in the backcountry this time of year but can still offer us clues about what to expect. Notes about weather and snow transport are particularly helpful. If ski areas are triggering wind slabs, we should expect to trigger them in the backcountry. In the Salt Lake area, snow safety teams reported upslope winds in Little Cottonwood were building cornices and transporting snow into Big Cottonwood drainages. Also, they...


Blog: Shame and the Social Contract - 01/14/2017 - Drew Hardesty
Originally published in this winter's hardcopy issue of Ascent, the Backcountry Snow Journal Not long ago, I heard a story from an old colleague of mine. It was his first year as an avalanche professional and he was out in the field with his supervisor. The two of them approached the top of the ridge and peered onto the slope below. It was snowing and visibility was not good. Still, they had seen avalanches run for most of the day. “I’ve never seen this slide before,” said the old hand, “why don’t you go first?” My pal shrugged his shoulders and dove in. Minutes later, after the boss...


Blog: Press Release January 7, 2017 - 01/7/2017 - Utah Avalanche Center
January 7, 2017   Forest Service Utah Avalanche Center Issues Avalanche Warning for Northern and Central Utah, Warns of Roof-Avalanches and Low Elevation Avalanche Danger.   SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH –   Expected heavy snow and strong winds will create dangerous avalanche conditions over the next several days.  Natural and human triggered slides will be certain on many steep slopes where the danger is expected to reach HIGH or EXTREME.  Those without expert level avalanche skills should avoid being on or underneath steep slopes…or avoid the backcountry altogether.  It should be noted that those...


Blog: #Nothing Bad Happened - 12/24/2016 - Drew Hardesty
I cribbed the name from an essay by Iain Stewart-Patterson, a mountain guide and faculty staff member of Thompson Rivers University in British Columbia.  His dissertation:  The Role of Intuition in the Decision Process of Canadian Ski Guides.  You can find his essay in a recent issue of The Avalanche Review, the publication of the American Avalanche Association here (page 18). I imagine most of you reading this are familiar with the very close call in the Birthday Chutes from last Monday.  I've added Mark White's photo below and the full accident investigation report by Mark Staples, Greg...


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