Forecast for the Provo Area Mountains

Issued by Mark Staples for Saturday, April 20, 2019 - 7:26am
Temperatures did not drop below freezing last night and this morning temperatures are very warm. Because the snowpack is starting out warm and wet this morning, it won't take much heating for wet avalanches to occur. Most of these will be loose wet avalanches.

Wet slides are most likely at mid and upper elevation slopes facing E, S, and W where the avalanche danger should quickly rise to CONSIDERABLE this morning. All other slopes have a MODERATE danger.

Trent will update the Salt Lake City, Ogden and Provo forecasts Saturday morning (April 20th) by 7:30 am.
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Special Announcements
The last scheduled forecast will be Sunday, April 21st. We will issue intermittent updates with each snowfall or significant weather event through the rest of the month. We will continue posting observations - so please continue to send those in!

Closed resorts are now backcountry terrain - no avalanche mitigation is being done. Utah ski resorts are on a mix of private and public Forest Service land, and each resort has a different uphill policy - contact the individual resort for details.
Weather and Snow
Temperatures have been 5-10 degrees warmer each day since Wednesday. They remained above freezing overnight. This morning temperatures are mostly near 50 degrees F following yesterday's high temperatures near 60 degrees F. Even at 11,000 feet it's 39 degrees F. The graph below shows air temps (orange line) at the Sundance Arrowhead Summit weather station. For reference the blue line shows 32 degrees. Notice the steady warming trend.
Wind have increased from the SW this morning. They are averaging 10-20 mph and gusting 30 mph at ridgetops. At the highest peaks they are averaging 30 mph gusting to 50 mph.
Today's weather will have more warm temperatures with highs similar to yesterday. Temperatures at many low and mid elevation locations should reach 60 degrees F. Strong SW winds will continue and bring some clouds followed by a chance of precipitation late tonight with a rain/snow line near 9,000 feet.
Recent Avalanches
There were many loose wet avalanches on Thursday and some yesterday. The photo below shows some of these slides in Red Pine Gulch in Little Cottonwood Canyon on Thursday (photo M. White).
Also yesterday a cornice broke under a skier looking into the Wolverine Cirque in Big Cottonwood Canyon. They were supposedly ok, but must have had quite a scare.
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Avalanche Problem #1
Wet Snow
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Wet avalanches are the main issue today. Many slopes have already produced wet slides, but I suspect there will be more today for 3 reasons
  1. Air temperatures did not drop below freezing anywhere last night.
  2. Clouds may have prevented the snow from refreezing. (Clear skies can allow the snow to refreeze sometimes despite warm air temps)
  3. Air temperatures have been 5-10 degrees warmer than the previous morning for the last three days.
On many slopes the snowpack is building it's "plumbing" system. This means drainage channels are being established. Once this happens, the snowpack can get very warm and drain a lot of water without becoming unstable. This process has already happened on some low elevation slopes that received rain during the last few storms.
For now however, wet avalanches are likely as soon as the snow starts to heat up. This process won't take long because the snow did not refreeze last night. Mostly I expect loose wet avalanches. but given the dramatic warm-up a few wet slabs are possible even though we haven't seen any happen. Wet slabs are often triggered by a smaller loose wet slide.
The only places that may escape having any wet avalanches are the highest elevation northerly facing slopes. Even on those slopes, I doubt the snow has stayed dry with strong south winds acting like a hair dryer this morning.
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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