Forecaster Blogs

Blog: Jan 20-27 Weekly Summary - Jan 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 - Jan 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...


Blog: Shame and the Social Contract - Jan 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...


Blog: Press Release January 7, 2017 - Jan 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...


Blog: #Nothing Bad Happened - Dec 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...


Blog: Week in Review: Monday Nov 28 - Friday Dec 02 - Dec 2, 2016 - Hardesty
Below, you'll see the trends of the danger rose from Monday through Friday.  An Avalanche Watch was issued Sunday afternoon.  This evolved into a Special Avalanche Advisory by Monday morning along with a HIGH avalanche danger.   Weather synopsis: A three-tiered storm arrived from the northwest last Saturday night, lasting through early Tuesday, more than doubling the amount of snow on the ground at that time.  Winds have remained generally light to moderate out of the northwest and continued to veer to the northeast as the most recent storm moved through and dived...


Blog: New Avalanche Explosives Work Backcountry Closure Procedures Going Into Effect - Nov 28, 2016 - Paul Diegel
The Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT) is implementing a revised policy for backcountry closures in Little Cottonwood Canyon this winter to help get SR 210 open quickly and safely, keep it open, and to reduce the likelihood of backcountry travelers exposed to avalanche explosives work. UDOT has thousands of people waiting on them to reduce the avalanche hazard and safely open the road and the sighting of a single person or even evidence of a person near their artillery targets can delay opening for hours. For this reason, they will be enforcing a complete closure of all ...


Blog: Understanding and managing depth hoar - Oct 19, 2016 - Eric Trenbeath
When the first significant storm paints the peaks white and we're getting stoked for winter, it's time to start thinking about how that first layer will affect snowpack stability during the upcoming season. In a perfect world, it will keep right on dumping and we'll be ripping deep, stable snow by Christmas. But, as is often the case, we could see a return of high pressure, and then we'll be left with snowed in bike trails, cold crags, and a rotting foundation for our snowpack. When shallow snow sits on the ground under cold clear skies it begins to transform, or metamorphose...


Blog: The Wisdom of Elbert Despain - Mar 23, 2016 - Ed LaChapelle as relayed by Drew Hardesty
From Ed LaChapelle's essay The Ascending Spiral in The Avalanche Review 24.1 (photo credit -Wilburn and Jean Pickett Photograph Collection, University of Utah Marriott library archives)  “Do nothing in haste”......this speaks loud and clear to the pressures of time, planning and economics, plus the perpetual urge to action that drives so much of our modern life. Here is where the human factor in avalanche-related decisions comes to the fore. And this brings us to Elbert’s Rule. When I first worked at Alta in the 1950’s, the daily mail was brought up the...


Blog: Dry snow, hot weather, and facets - Mar 20, 2016 - Mark Staples
Ever wonder how the snow on north aspects can stay cold and dry during such warm weather? There is a big difference between air temperature and snow surface temperature. This is why the snow can refreeze even on relatively warm nights if the skies are clear. Snow loses heat very efficiently to clear skies at night then warms during the day as air temperatures warm. See the graph below showing air temperature vs snow temperature along Bunnells Ridge (8800') just south of Provo Canyon during the last 2 days. Notice that snow temperatures at night got as low as 6 degrees F then warmed to 32...


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