Forecast for the Ogden Area Mountains

Issued by Greg Gagne for Tuesday, March 12, 2019 - 6:50am
Timing is everything today. The avalanche hazard starts out generally Low, but will rise to at least Moderate with heating from the sun. This includes east, west, and south aspects as well as low elevation northerly aspects. Both wet loose and cohesive wet slab avalanches are possible. Sluffing and small wind and storm slabs are possible in steep, upper elevation northerly terrain.
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Chapter 5 in the LOW Danger series has been published. It's the first of two first-hand accounts of the Blue Ice avalanche from January 5th. One can find all the chapters in the Blog page in the menu above.
Chapter 6 in the LOW Danger series is now published. It's the second of two first hand accounts of the Blue Ice avalanche from January 5th.
Thanks to these two. These stories need to be told.

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Weather and Snow
Temperatures in the Ogden mountains this morning are in the 20’s F. Winds are out of the south/southwest and generally light, gusting into the teens and low 20's mph at the uppermost ridgelines. Skies are clear.
Soft, dry snow remains on northerly aspects above about 8000’where excellent riding conditions can still be found. All other aspects will be crusted.
Skies will be mostly clear today, but clouding up later in the afternoon. Winds will be out of the south/southeast and light in the low and mid elevations, averaging < 10 mph. At the upper elevations a few gusts may reach the 20’s mph. Temperatures will rise into the upper 20’s F in the upper elevations, and 30’s in the mid elevations; even warmer at the low elevations. Improving conditions as a cold and windy storm moves in overnight and into Wednesday. We can expect about 4-6" out of this system, with the highest amounts in areas favored by a northwest flow.
Recent Avalanches
Reports from the Ogden mountains for Monday included sluffing of wet loose snow. In the Snowbasin backcountry, a cascading sluff of wet snow triggered a larger soft slab, taking out existing tracks.
You can read recent field reports - including avalanche activity - for the Ogden mountains by visiting the observations page (link).
Avalanche Problem #1
Wet Snow
Aided by clear skies and light winds, the strong March sun will quickly go to work today and heat east, south, and west aspects, including shaded or northerly aspects below about 8000'. Although I am expecting most activity to be wet loose (such as Mark White's photo below from yesterday in Cardiff Fork in the Salt Lake mountains), I also think cohesive slabs of damp/wet snow are possible (such as yesterday's wet slab in the Snowbasin backcountry), where these wet slabs could break out more widely and run on sun crusts that formed on Saturday. I do think the generally minor wet activity the past few days has slowly allowed the snowpack to adjust to warming, but today will be a more significant warm-up and I am expecting much more widespread wet activity - including larger avalanches - than the past two days. Move off of and out from underneath any steep slope once you see any sign of warming - such as rollerballs, natural wet sluffs, and unsupportable snow.
Cornices - Avoid traveling across or underneath corniced ridgelines as today's warming may make cornices reactive. The cornices are particularly large along the ridgelines in the Snowbasin backcountry.
In 2016, Drew Hardesty presented on an analysis of Utah avalanche fatalities (link) at the ISSW workshop in Breckenridge, CO which mentions 5% of Utah avalanche fatalities involve cornice falls.
Avalanche Problem #2
New Snow
There was enough avalanche activity on Monday involving recent storm snow that warrants our continued attention on those mid and upper elevation northerly aspects where you will also find the best riding conditions. This includes sluffing in steep terrain (photo below), and pockets of denser storm snow or wind drifts in the higher terrain in the alpine. In the Salt Lake area mountains yesterday I was finding recent instabilities within the top 2’ of snow to have largely settled out, but I would watch for areas where graupel has possibly pooled, such as below steeper cliff bands. This is pretty easy to evaluate with quick hand pits or pulling out your shovel - looking for the structure of a stronger slab over weaker snow (such as a denser slab on top of a layer of loose graupel.)
General Announcements
This information does not apply to developed ski areas or highways where avalanche control is normally done. 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.

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