Forecast for the Salt Lake Area Mountains

Issued by Drew Hardesty for Tuesday, December 4, 2018 - 5:27am
Areas of CONSIDERABLE danger exist at the mid and upper elevation northwest through east facing slopes. The danger is more pockety in the upper elevation west and southeast quadrants, but no less dangerous. Human triggered avalanches 2-3' deep are probable and may be triggered at a distance. Elsewhere, the danger is generally LOW.
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Special Announcements
UDOT is sighting in their artillery this morning for their targets in Stairs Gulch of BCC. Backcountry closures are in effect for Broads Fork and Stairs Gulch through at least mid-morning. Parking and access to Mill B South is open.
Alta is conducting avalanche control work on Patsy Marley this morning.
Snowbird is conducting avalanche control work near the Gad Valley and White Pine ridgeline.
PLEASE avoid these areas through at least mid-morning.

We have a couple of fun events coming up on December 5th and 6th in Salt Lake and Park City. Topics include Recreating in New Zones, Women's Specific Avalanche Awareness, and a slide show from Ascent Magazine. More info about these events HERE.
Weather and Snow
More than once I shuddered in the skin track yesterday, but not because of the cold. I would be momentarily overcome with the emotion of it all. There are those days when the stars and planets and, shall I say, snowflakes, align. I know that you know what I mean. We mark our lives by these days.
Skies are clear, temps are near 0°F, winds are light and westerly. Many folks reported that it was the best skiing and riding of the year yesterday. It might have been the best skiing of the year, any year. Missed out? It might be better today. And tomorrow. A weak and splitting system off the coast of CA will kick in some cloud cover and a couple inches of snow later tomorrow through early Friday with clearing again for the weekend. Temps will gradually warm in the coming days.
Snow stakes hold a good early foundation of 2-4' on the ground, with some favored areas in the upper reaches of the Cottonwoods boasting almost 5' of snow. How's the winter so far? See the map below. After many years of drought, let's not get greedy. Average is 500"/year in LCC. Average will do.
Recent Avalanches
Ski area control teams found spotty new snow avalanches with only one explosive-induced avalanche stepping into the old facets a couple-three feet deep on a north facing slope at 10,700'. In the backcountry, Mark White found that West Monitor had naturalled to the ground overnight 2-3' deep and 500' wide. This was a repeater from the Thanksgiving cycle. Also of great interest is a skier-remote from two days ago in Porter Fork of Mill Creek. The slide was reported as 2' deep and 100' wide on a northwest facing slope at 8400'. This may be one of the lower elevation avalanches we have heard about thus far. (West Monitor pc: Mark White). Confused about locations and names? Check out the Wasatch Backcountry Skiing page (and app).
Avalanche Problem #1
Persistent Weak Layer
We've had human triggered avalanches stepping into the old October snow 2-3' deep nearly every day since Thanksgiving with at least a dozen since December 1st. Our own party experienced multiple collapses in northerly terrain while we gained the east ridge of Mt Raymond in BCC. Nat Grainger describes what we found in the video clip.
Avalanche Problem #2
Normal Caution
Risk is inherent in mountain travel. Isolated and shallow wind pockets and minor sluffing of the new snow are possible in steep, high alpine terrain. These issues are manageable through proper assessment, terrain choices, ski cuts and the like. Radical terrain amplifies the consequences of even a minor mishap. Remember that good habits save lives: travel one at a time through avalanche terrain, carry and know how to use rescue equipment, and be close enough to your partners to effect a rescue if needed.
Additional Information
There's no mystery here. We got after the cold smoke on both south and north facing terrain yesterday. How? We skied steep south facing terrain because it harbors no old basal faceted snow. When we skied north facing; however, we ratcheted our slope angles down and avoided being underneath other steep terrain. For today, the powder skiing and riding will be equally good around the compass, but the risk matrix is clear: North facing: High Risk High Reward----- South facing: Low Risk High Reward
General Announcements
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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