31st Annual Backcountry Benefit - September 12th - Tickets Available Here!

Forecast for the Moab Area Mountains

Dave Garcia
Issued by Dave Garcia on
Tuesday morning, January 17, 2023
Recent heavy snowfall and blowing and drifting snow has created a CONSIDERABLE avalanche danger on slopes near and above treeline that face NW-N-NE-E. Human triggered avalanches in wind drifted snow are likely on these slopes. In isolated areas, avalanches triggered in the new snow could step down to the buried persistent weak layer causing a deeper and more dangerous avalanche.

A MODERATE danger exists on all other aspects and elevations, where human triggered wind drifts as well as avalanches running in the new snow, are possible.

Travel advice: Avoid slopes steeper than 30 degrees that have recent deposits of wind drifted snow or that show signs of instability such as cracking in the snow surface. Utilize test slopes to see how the new snow is behaving before committing to steeper terrain. Avoid all, steep, northerly aspects.
Learn how to read the forecast here
Special Announcements
*The Loop Road from the Castle Valley Side will be closed until probably Thursday while plow crews deal with other areas*
Our Backcountry 101 class is full. We look forward to seeing everyone this weekend!
Road Conditions: Plowing is scheduled today with assistance from a USFS bulldozer to widen the road. Expect the road to be closed for most of the day.
Grooming: All trails will be covered in new snow today.
Weather and Snow
24 Hour Snow 4" 72 Hour Snow 20" Season Total Snow 156" Base Depth at Gold Basin 73"
Winds on Pre Laurel Peak SSE 11 G 19 Temp 18

Another snowy and windy day is on tap for the mountains. Precipitation will continue today as the main trough approaches the four corners. We could pick up another 3-6" today, and another 3-6" tonight. Winds will blow out of the SSW at 15-25 mph. Overnight temps will drop to the single digits and winds will shift to the WNW around 15 mph. Tomorrow we will wake up to light snow showers with clearing skies by the afternoon. NW winds will keep things cold, blowing 15-25 mph with temperatures around 10 degrees. After a short break in the action, we get another chance for light snow Thursday night into Friday.
General Conditions
Yesterday was another day of storm skiing in the La Sals. On the windward side of the compass we found soft turns and a lack of wind drifted snow. Fresh, unstable drifts have formed on leeward slopes 18-24" deep. The snow continues to fall and mountain winds continue to blow and drift the new snow around. Wind drifted snow continues to be our most notable avalanche problem today. While riding steeper terrain yesterday, loose sluffs started running in the most recent storm snow. With continued snowfall, sluffing will still be something to watch out for today.
The November persistent weak layer is deeply buried in most areas and is becoming harder to affect. Areas of concern include places where the snowpack is thinner like along slope margins, near rocky outcrops, or along steep convexities. We are once again testing it with a new load of snow and more is on the way. For now, let's steer clear of steep, northerly facing terrain until the dust settles so to speak.

Snowpack and Weather Data
Gold Basin Storm Stake (10,000')
Gold Basin SNOTEL site (10,000')
SNOTEL site near Geyser Pass Winter Trailhead (9600')
Wind Station on Pre-Laurel Peak (11,400')
NWS forecast for the La Sal Mountains.
Recent Avalanches
No new avalanches have been reported. Here is the La Sal Avalanche Database.
Avalanche Problem #1
Wind Drifted Snow
Strong Southerly winds continue to drift snow into dense, cohesive slabs across the landscape. Isolated drifts may be found on all aspects and elevations, but the problem is fairly widespread on slopes near and above treeline that face W-N-SE. On northerly aspects, drifts 18" -24" deep have developed. Fresh soft slabs will continue to form today and I would expect them to be quite sensitive. Human triggered avalanches in wind drifted snow are likely. Avoid steep, wind drifted slopes today, especially those with a Northerly aspect.
Avalanche Problem #2
New Snow
In our travels yesterday we experienced sluffing in the new snow on steep terrain. Sluffs and loose dry snow avalanches will continue to be a problem today, especially during periods of heavy precipitation. Use steep test slopes and ski cuts to see if loose, uncohesive surface snow moves down slope. In big, steep terrain, sluffs can easily knock a rider off their feet. Avoid steep terrain with terrain traps below.
Additional snow today also has the potential to form soft storm slabs. Cracking in the snow surface is a good indicator of this type of instability. Blocks of snow between your skis on the skin trail indicate that a slab has developed. Any avalanche triggered in new or wind drifted snow today has the potential to step down to more deeply buried weak layers, causing larger more destructive avalanches.
Avalanche Problem #3
Persistent Weak Layer
A series of storms this week is putting more pressure on the deeply buried persistent weak layer that formed in November. This layer has shown signs of strengthening and stability tests continue to be less reactive. With a new load, it is best to avoid steep slopes that harbor this weak layer. Areas of concern include slopes with steep convexities or blind break-overs, thin snowpack areas along slope margins or near rock outcrops, and areas of steep, rocky, more radical terrain. Continue to exercise patience this week while the snow piles up. If we don't see any avalanches breaking deep down on this weak layer during these storms, I think we can start to put this problem behind us.
Additional Information
General Announcements
This forecast is from the U.S.D.A. Forest Service, which is solely responsible for its content. This forecast describes general avalanche conditions and local variations always occur. This forecast will be updated by 7:30 tomorrow morning.