Forecast for the Moab Area Mountains

Issued by Eric Trenbeath for Thursday, December 6, 2018 - 6:33am
The avalanche danger remains CONSIDERABLE today on steep, mid to upper elevation terrain that faces NW-N-E, and human triggered avalanches breaking down into buried, persistent weak layers are likely in these areas. In addition, fresh deposits of wind drifted snow have added more weight to these fragile weak layers. Avoid wind drifted slopes that have a smooth rounded appearance, and look for signs of instability such as cracking in the snow surface. On W and SE facing slopes the danger is MODERATE, Best tip today is for low angle, wind sheltered terrain.
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Special Announcements
The road to Geyser Pass Trailhead is plowed but snow packed and slick. All wheel drive vehicles with good tires are recommended.
Weather and Snow
Skies are mostly cloudy, southwesterly ridge top winds are blowing 15-20 mph, and 10,000' temps are in the low 20's. A weakening storm system will move through the desert southwest today into Friday. Most of the energy is to the south but we'll see a chance of snow showers today with perhaps a few inches tonight. SW winds will continue to blow in the 10-15 mph range and daytime high temps will be in the mid 20's. High pressure builds over the weekend with the next potential storm systems developing by mid next week.
The past weekend's 30" of low density snow has settled considerably and SW winds yesterday ravaged exposed slopes, but you can still find good riding conditions in sheltered locations. Base depth in Gold Basin is a solid 36". Lots of folks have been out and about enjoying the early December snow, and much thanks to all who have sent in observations this week! Check them out here. Below is a clip of what we saw out there yesterday.
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
Yesterday I observed the first natural activity high up in Red Snow Cirque and off the north face of Mount Tukuhnikivatz. Blowing and drifting snow from the strong WSW winds yesterday tipped the scales, and I noted two slides that appeared to break down into old snow with fractures 3'-4' deep. Read the report here.
Avalanche Problem #1
Persistent Weak Layer
Almost 30" of snow since last Friday has been added to persistent weak layers in the snowpack. These layers of weak, sugary, faceted snow are prevalent on any slope that has held snow since October. Basically any slope above about 10,000' that faces NW-N-E. Backcountry travelers are still reporting cracking and collapsing in the snowpack, a sure sign that these layers are still reactive to the weight of a skier or rider. Continue to avoid steep slopes that face NW-N-E as human triggered avalanches are likely in these areas.
Avalanche Problem #2
Wind Drifted Snow
Strong and blustery WSW winds yesterday built deep deposits of wind drifted snow that even resulted in natural avalanche activity. Avoid steep wind drifted slopes today. Look for tell tale signs such as smooth rounded pillows, or cracking in the snow surface. A triggered wind slab will almost certainly step down into buried, persistent weak layers causing a much deeper avalanche.

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