Forecast for the Salt Lake Area Mountains

Drew Hardesty
Issued by Drew Hardesty on
Saturday morning, February 6, 2021
Areas of HIGH DANGER exist this morning in steep upper elevation terrain. This danger is most pronounced on north through southeast facing slopes. A CONSIDERABLE danger exists at the mid-elevations and this is where we may see a few close calls today. Avalanches may be up to 5' deep and over several-hundred feet wide. Remember that avalanches can be triggered from a distance.
The Good News: safe and surfy riding conditions can be found on low angle terrain of all aspects with no overhead hazard.
The Bad News: If you're headed out of bounds at a ski area, you may be stepping into HIGH avalanche danger.
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Special Announcements
With great sadness, the Utah Avalanche Center reports that a 57-year old skier, Kurt Damschroder of Park City, was killed Saturday, January 30 in a backcountry avalanche off of Square Top Peak, located on the Park City Ridgeline. The final accident report can be found HERE. Our thoughts go out to those affected by this tragic accident, especially the family and friends of Kurt.
Since February 1, there have been nine other avalanche fatalities in the US.
Weather and Snow
Skies are mostly cloudy. Mountain temperatures are generally in the teens with single digits up high.
The wind. 11,000' anemometers suffered a few gusts from the west-northwest over 100mph yesterday afternoon. They remain strong.
With an additional 3-5" (0.27"-0.5") overnight, storm totals are now up to 10-15" (0.75-1.01") in the Cottonwoods and along the Park City ridgeline.
Skiing and riding conditions are excellent and surfy on higher density graupel snow and wind whales across the landscape.
For today, skies will trend partly cloudy with mountain temperatures rising to the low to mid-20s. Expect no mercy from the northwest winds; they're forecast to increase in speed this afternoon.
The Outlook:
With a high amplitude ridge to the West, we'll remain under a cool, breezy northwest flow through mid-week.
Recent Avalanches
Greg anticipated the danger spiking to high yesterday during high rates of snowfall and strong winds and this verified with a couple periods of natural avalanching in the high, steep terrain mid-canyon above Little Cottonwood, including areas of White Pine Chutes and the Y/Y-Not.
Two notable avalanches stood out from the backcountry yesterday -
  1. Short Swing area of Mill D North: 9200' North facing unknown trigger estimated at 2' deep and roughly 125' wide
  2. Alexander Basin: a skier remotely triggered an estimated 2-3' deep avalanche possibly up to 500' wide low in the basin at 8600' north facing.
It has been a very active week with nearly 40 natural and human-triggered avalanches reported to the UAC from the Salt Lake mountains. The actual number is likely much higher. This included two very-close calls as well as the second avalanche fatality of the season in the state. Get caught up by reading our Week in Review for this past week where we highlight significant avalanche, snow, and weather events.
Avalanche Problem #1
Persistent Weak Layer
We may see a few avalanches to the ground. These may be explosive triggered, natural, or human triggered. The heavy snowfall and sustained winds may be too much for some of our northerly terrain with a creaky snowpack; particularly areas that have previously avalanched to near the ground this year. Any fresh wind slab or new snow avalanche may step down into this older layering of weak snow.
Particularly dangerous areas would include Snake Creek, upper American Fork, upper Mill Creek and much of the Park City ridgeline.
Avalanche Problem #2
Wind Drifted Snow
Strong winds will continue to move snow into wind drifts that may be increasingly stubborn and less reactive as the day wears on. The wind drift may be well off the ridgelines, cross-loaded across the landscape, and may release on not the first but perhaps second or third rider across the slope. Cracking and collapsing may or may not be evident.
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.