Forecast for the Moab Area Mountains

Issued by Eric Trenbeath for Tuesday, January 8, 2019 - 6:45am
The avalanche danger is CONSIDERABLE today on steep slopes that have recent deposits of wind drifted snow. In addition, new snow, and wind drifted snow, have dangerously overloaded a fragile snowpack, and avalanches stepping down into buried persistent weak layers are also likely, particularly on steep terrain that faces NW-N-E. There is also a MODERATE danger for triggering an avalanche in the storm snow, even on slopes that aren't wind loaded - signs of instability include collapsing and cracking in the snow surface. And finally, as the day heats up we may see some loose, wet avalanches on sun exposed slopes. Don't let the beautiful day lull you into a sense of complacency. It's dangerous out there and problems are complex.
Low
Moderate
Considerable
High
Extreme
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Weather and Snow
Skies are clear, NW winds are light, and 10,000' temps are in the mid teens. It's going to be a beautiful day in the mountains with sunny skies, light winds, and high temps in the low 30's. Sunday's storm delivered 12" of dense, new snow accompanied by strong SW winds. As a result, it's not exactly light, fluffy powder conditions out there. The dense snow is fast and somewhat supportive making for fun skiing and riding on low angle terrain, which is where you want to be considering the avalanche potential. We'll see high pressure building today and tomorrow, interrupted by a weak short wave on Thursday, with a return to dry conditions after that.
I didn't receive any reports from the backcountry yesterday, but the video below shows what we found going on during the storm on Sunday.
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.
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Avalanche Problem #1
Wind Drifted Snow
Type
Location
Likelihood
Size
Description
Strong SW winds accompanied the storm, and deep drifts of unstable snow have formed in many locations. Above treeline you may find drifts on all aspects on the lee sides of ridge crests and terrain features. Below treeline, most of the drifting will be on slopes with a northerly aspect. Avoid any stope slope that you suspect may be wind loaded - look for telltale signs such as a smooth rounded appearance, or cracking in the snow surface.
Avalanche Problem #2
Persistent Weak Layer
Type
Location
Likelihood
Size
Description
New snow and wind drifted snow have dangerously overloaded a weak snowpack, and human triggered avalanches stepping down into buried persistent weak layers of loose, sugary, faceted snow are likely. These weak layers are found primarily on slopes facing the north half of the compass but the problem may wrap around further to the W and SE. Safest bet today is to simply avoid steep, avalanche prone terrain. The video below illustrates how a persistent weak layer on a NE aspect is reacting to the new snow load.
Avalanche Problem #3
New Snow
Type
Location
Likelihood
Size
Description
Storm snow on Sunday formed a dense, reactive, cohesive slab on all aspects. I suspect that this slab has mostly strengthened, but it may still be possible to trigger an avalanche in the most recent snow on slopes that aren't wind loaded. The most obvious signs of instability are collapsing, and cracking in the snow surface. Also, as the day heats up, we may see some loose, wet avalanches as the sun hits the recent snow when it is most vulnerable.
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: eric@utahavalanchecenter.org.
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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.

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