Forecast for the Salt Lake Area Mountains

Greg Gagne
Issued by Greg Gagne for
Friday, January 8, 2021
There is a CONSIDERABLE AVALANCHE DANGER on steep slopes at the mid and upper elevations facing west, through north, and east where recent storm snow and winds have created a dense slab of snow on top of a buried persistent weak layer. Avalanches may be 2-3' deep and over 200' wide. These are dangerous avalanche conditions - avoid being on, underneath, or adjacent to steep slopes on these aspects and elevations. A Moderate danger exists for triggering a lingering wind drift at the upper elevations.
Keep in mind:
- If you are leaving the ski area through an exit gate, you are entering the backcountry and likely stepping into a CONSIDERABLE avalanche danger.
- Previous tracks are zero indication of stability.
- If you are skiing or riding alone, you have no margin of safety with no one to perform a rescue.
There have been several close calls/near misses this past week and I am fearful our luck has run out. Fortunately, excellent riding conditions exist on low-angled slopes other than due south.
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Special Announcements

Thanks to the generous support of our local resorts, Ski Utah, and Backcountry, discount lift tickets are now available. Support the UAC while you ski at the resorts this season. Tickets are available here.
Weather and Snow
Skies are partly cloudy this morning, with temperatures ranging through the teens. Winds are westerly and light - less than 10 mph - with gusts in the teens along mid and upper elevation ridgelines.
For today you can expect increasing clouds and continued light winds from the west. Temperatures will rise into the upper 20's and lower 30's.
A weak storm should deliver a few inches of snow overnight and into the early hours of Saturday morning. High pressure moves in for the upcoming week.
Recent Avalanches
Two human, remotely-triggered avalanches were reported Thursday:
Martha's Bowl (backcountry between Brighton and Alta) - NW aspect at 10,000'. Estimated 3.5' deep and 300' wide. Debris was 4-5' deep in places along their skin track.
Scott's Bowl (Park City Ridgeline) - NE aspect at 9900'. 2' deep and 150' wide.

Our Week in Review - where we highlight significant weather and avalanche events from this past week - has been published. (It's good reading to get a handle on the significant number of avalanche events that have occurred over this past week.)
Avalanche Problem #1
Persistent Weak Layer
Recent avalanches are the greatest indication of avalanche danger. More than 20 human-triggered avalanches failing in the buried persistent weak layer (PWL) have been reported to the UAC since January 1. Many avalanches have been triggered remotely, over 3' deep and over 150' wide. (Thursday's Martha's Bowl slide was reported at 300' wide.) Recent storm snow and moderate to strong winds have built a dense slab on top of this PWL creating dangerous avalanche conditions. You simply need to avoid steep terrain facing west, through north, and east at the mid and upper elevations.
A heat map of the distribution of avalanche activity (almost all avalanches failing in the PWL) in the Salt Lake mountains since the start of the New Year:
If you choose to enter the terrain where this PWL exists, stick to low-angled slopes (less than 30° in steepness) with nothing steep adjacent to or above you.
Additional Information
A few years ago Drew did an analysis of the avalanches in the state of Utah in the modern era. This is for the post-mining days. We're up to 122 fatalities since January 1940.
The last sentence in the study's introduction was this -
As with any papers looking at statistics, it might be tempting to look at these fatalities as just numbers. But at the end of the day, each incident is not a number at all. Each incident is a human being – a person with a family and a community, with dreams and aspirations whose life was taken from them by an avalanche.
General Announcements
Please visit this website with information about Responsible Winter Recreation by the Utah Office of Outdoor Recreation.

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.