Forecast for the Provo Area Mountains

Issued by Mark Staples for Saturday, December 30, 2017 - 7:32am

Dangerous avalanche conditions exist on upper elevation slopes facing N, NE, and E where the danger is CONSIDERABLE and persistent slab avalanches will break on buried faceted layers. These are slopes with the most snow and best riding conditions, so the best strategy is to simply stick to low angle slopes and avoid being under steeper slopes. Avalanches yesterday and reports of collapsing of the snowpack are sure signs of unstable conditions.

Other slopes at mid and low elevations and other aspects have a MODERATE danger. Many of these slopes have similar faceted layers but the odds of triggering an avalanche are a little less. South and West aspects have minimal snow cover and a LOW danger.

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Weather and Snow

It's warm this morning with mountain temperatures in the mid 40's F and barely below freezing at 11,000 ft. Winds increased overnight and this morning are blowing 15-20 mph gusting 30-45 from the SW.

Slopes with a southerly aspect have been getting damp each day. Northerly facing slopes have become more supportable as the snow from last weekend has settled. On these northerly/shaded slopes, the snow surface has started faceting.

Read a quick summary of the storms and avalanche activity during the last week HERE.

Recent Avalanches

With less snow in the Provo area mountains than a bit further north, there have been few observations. We are relying on activity and observations in other places to give us an indication of what is happening at the higher elevations of the Provo area.

Two avalanches were reported yesterday. One was caused by a falling conice. A skier was on Honeycomb ridge, and a cornice broke near him which caused a slide about 20 inches deep failing on facets. Please be extra careful near ski area boundaries. Another slide happened in Dry Fork where a large group was skiing. Three people were skiing. When the fourth skier entered the slope, an avalanche about 80 feet wide and about 2 feet deep broke and caught all four. None were buried our injured.

Additionally, people reported collapsing yesterday in Willor Fork, near Guardsman Pass, in Cardiff Fork, and in Georges Bowl. Collapsing is the exact process that causes a persistent slab avalanche to release, except the slope isn't steep enough to slide. Consider reports of collapsing just as important as hearing about recent avalanches.

Find a full list of all recent avalanches here.

Avalanche Problem #1
Persistent Weak Layer

It's been almost a week since the first or two storms overloaded the snowpack, yet persistent slab avalanches remain a problem because the bottom half of the snowpack consists of weak, faceted snow. Two avalanches and multiple reports of collapsing yesterday are sure signs that more avalanches can be triggered today. The exact nature of this avalanche problem is that it persists and doesn't go away.

HEADS UP - Increased winds today will find some snow to transport. Many slopes are ready to slide anyway and the slightest additional weight from wind driffted snow will make them extra sensitive today.

Unfortunately, the slopes with the best coverage are the ones where this avalanche problem exits. Since the snow is shallow and conditions are poor on slopes where this problem doesn't exist, the only option is to ride on low angle slopes (slopes less than 30 degrees in steepness). A few key points about this type of avalanche problem are:

  • Avalanches can be triggered remotely (from a distance) or from lower-angled terrain.
  • Ttracks on a slope are zero indication of stability. The Dry Fork slide mentioned above was triggered by the fourth skier.
Additional Information

Temperatures today should warm into the 40's F near 8000 feet before a weak cold front brings clouds, increased winds, and just an inch or two of snow. Winds will blow mostly westerly at 15-25 mph with gusts of 45 mph. An inch or two may fall tonight as well if we're lucky. Another ridge of high pressure will begin building over Utah and bring dry and warm weather for next week.

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This information does not apply to developed ski areas or highways where avalanche control is normally done. 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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