Forecast for the Moab Area Mountains

Issued by Eric Trenbeath for Sunday, February 10, 2019 - 6:47am
Blowing and drifting snow over the past several days have created dangerous avalanche conditions, and the avalanche danger remains CONSIDERABLE on steep, wind drifted slopes that face W-N-E. Human triggered avalanches involving wind drifted snow, and buried, persistent weak layers, are likely in these areas and natural avalanches are possible. On slopes facing SW-S-SE the avalanche danger is MODERATE to LOW.
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Special Announcements
I'm sorry to report more sad news from the backcountry.
Yesterday, a 49 year old man was killed in an avalanche accident on the west side of Humpy Peak in the East Fork of the Chalk Creek drainage while riding with his son and a friend. A preliminary investigation is found here.
In addition, 41 year old Brad Stapley of St. George was caught and killed in an avalanche east of Beaver, UT near Circleville Mountain on Friday.
Or deepest sympathies go out to the families and friends of the victims.
Weather and Snow
Skies are clear this morning and southerly winds continue to howl. They've been relentless over the past several days averaging 30 mph along ridge tops with gusts into the 50's. Today look for sunny skies, continued moderate to strong southerly winds, and high temps in the low 20's. A relatively weak and fast moving system will impact our area tonight, 2"-4" seem likely. A stronger system is slated for Wed-Thu. It's currently 20 degrees at the Geyser Pass Trailhead and a bitter cold 6 degrees up on Pre Laurel Peak.
Though conditions weren't exactly pleasant in the mountains yesterday, they provided our Backcountry 101 class an excellent opportunity to see avalanche conditions in the making with lots of blowing and drifting snow, shooting cracks, and failing wind slabs. Fellow instructor Dave Garcia 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
A significant natural wind slab avalanche more than 100' wide was reported in Talking Mountain Cirque on Thursday.
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Avalanche Problem #1
Wind Drifted Snow
Type
Location
Likelihood
Size
Description
Strong southerly winds continue to blow and drift snow on to slopes facing W-N-E, and human triggered avalanches are likely on steep, wind drifted slopes in these areas. Natural avalanches are also possible. Be alert to recent deposits of wind drifted snow on the lee sides of upper elevation ridge crests and terrain features. They are often recognizable by their smooth, rounded appearance, and they may sound, and feel hollow underneath. Cracking in the snow surface is a sign of instability.
Avalanche Problem #2
Persistent Weak Layer
Type
Location
Likelihood
Size
Description
Snow stability test are starting to show varying degrees of reactivity with regard to buried, persistent weak layers. Where the snowpack is deepest, these layers are showing signs of healing, and Travis Naumnan was unable to produce any results yesterday, even with what he described as a "gorilla slap" to the column. On the other hand, I found the snow to be very reactive earlier in the week. Our primary layer of concern is the early December snow that has turned into weak, sugary facets on top of the October crust. With 21" of new snow, and almost 2" of water weight since then, I'm going to assume this layer is guilty until proven innocent. This means assuming that deep and dangerous, human triggered avalanches are possible, primarily on steep slopes at mid and upper elevations that face NW-N-E. The only way to know for sure will be to perform your own stability test on a slope by slope basis.
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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