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Forecast for the Moab Area Mountains

Eric Trenbeath
Issued by Eric Trenbeath on
Saturday morning, January 26, 2019
The avalanche danger remains CONSIDERABLE and human triggered avalanches are likely on any steep, wind drifted slope. The problem is most widespread on steep, upper elevation slopes that face W-N-SE, but you need to be alert to possible wind drifts on all aspects. In addition to problems with wind drifted snow, deep and dangerous avalanches failing on a buried persistent weak layer are also likely. This problem exists primarily on steep slopes facing W-N-SE, in mid and upper elevation terrain, but there is also a possibility for triggering this type of avalanche on south facing terrain. Conservative terrain choices remain essential. Stick to low angle, wind sheltered terrain and meadows. On low elevation, and most south facing terrain, the danger is MODERATE.
Learn how to read the forecast here
Special Announcements
I'm very sorry to report that a snowmobiler was buried by an avalanche in Dark Canyon on the east side of the La Sal Mountains yesterday afternoon. His party was unable to locate him and search and rescue personnel will be undertaking search efforts today. We will provide more information as it becomes available.
We will be offering a Backcountry 101 avalanche course on Feb 8, 9. It's a great way to up your avalanche knowledge with both classroom, and hands on field instruction. Click here for more details and to register. Much thanks to Moab Gear Trader for sponsoring this course! Please visit them for all of your winter backcountry needs.
Weather and Snow
Skies are mostly clear and 10,000' temps are around 10 degrees. NW winds are relatively calm blowing in the 15-20 mph range along ridge tops. Today look for sunny skies and high temps in the low 20's. NW winds will continue to blow in the 15-20 mph with gusts to 25. There are no storms for the foreseeable future.
Soft snow conditions can still be found in sheltered locations but much of the exposed terrain has taken a hit from the wind and sun. The snowpack is complex and dangerous with buried, persistent weak layers and a liberal scattering of wind slabs. Don't let the sunny day lure you into a false sense of security. For quality and safety, stick to low angle, wind sheltered terrain.
Dave Garcia and Tim Mathews were out yesterday and sent in this observation.
Base depth in Gold Basin: 60"
New snow totals in Gold Basin (10,000')
Snow totals at the Geyser Pass Trailhead (9600')
Wind, temperature, and humidity on Pre Laurel Peak (11,700')
National Weather Service point forecast.
Recent Avalanches
Wind drifting continues to be an issue and yesterday I received reports of a natural avalanche on an upper elevation west face of Tukno, where cross-loading over a sub ridge caused a failure up to 6' deep.
Chris Jacobsen sent in this photo of an avalanche on the NE face of Peale that likely occurred on Monday. This is the type of deep and dangerous avalanche you definitely don't want to be involved with. Human triggered avalanches of this magnitude are still likely in this kind of terrain. Note the wind scoured surface in the foreground.
This photo I took of Noriega's Face on Wednesday illustrates the piecemeal avalanche activity of the past several weeks. Exxon's Folly has come apart in similar fashion. The take home for me is that deep and dangerous avalanches are still possible on slopes that haven't run yet. For more on recent avalanches see Dave Garcia's report.
Avalanche Problem #1
Wind Drifted Snow
Winds continue to blow and drift snow in the high country. Today you'll have to contend with shallow, recent deposits, and deeper, older drifts that formed earlier in the week. Wind slabs will be stiff, and maybe a bit stubborn today, but when they break, they could fail several feet deep. Due to the intensity of the winds, and high quantity of snow available for transport, drifting has occurred on all aspects. Avoid any steep slope that shows signs of recent wind loading. Expect to find recent drifts on the lee sides of ridge crests and terrain features such as gully walls, sub-ridges, and rock outcroppings. Fresh drifts are recognizable by their smooth rounded, pillowy appearance, and cracking in the snow surface is a sign of an unstable drift or wind slab.
Areas of wind drifted snow cover the high country. Note all the smooth, "pillowy" rounded deposits. Avoid steep wind drifted terrain such as this. Dave Garcia photo.
Avalanche Problem #2
Persistent Weak Layer
Wind drifted snow continues to put additional stress on buried, persistent weak layers. The primary concern is a layer of weak, sugary, faceted snow that formed in mid December. Since Christmas Eve, regular storms have now piled more than 3' of snow on top of this layer. Add wind drifting, and we've seen avalanches up to 7' deep. The danger is greatest on steep slopes facing the north half of the compass, but I've found weak snow, and experienced collapsing on all aspects. The only good strategy for now is to continue to avoid steep terrain.
This video was shot last weekend, but it still describes the current state of the snowpack.
Additional Information
Grooming: Volunteers from LUNA have been busy all week packing down the new snow, and yesterday they completed grooming the entire mountain from Gold Basin through Geyser Pass on Thursday.
General Announcements
Your information can save lives. If you see anything we should know about, please help us out by submitting snow and avalanche observations HERE. You can also call me at 801-647-8896, or send me an email: [email protected].
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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.