Forecast for the Salt Lake Area Mountains

Drew Hardesty
Issued by Drew Hardesty for
Saturday, March 28, 2020
This morning, we're on the upper end of MODERATE at the upper elevations where human triggered avalanches involving new wind drifts and lingering soft slab avalanches 1-2' deep remain possible. Sluffing in the new low density snow is likely on all aspects and elevations. The best and safest riding remains on sun and wind-sheltered slopes less than 35° in steepness.

As always, the springtime sun can immediately affect riding and avalanche conditions. If the cold snow becomes damp with sun and daytime heating this afternoon, wet sluffs will be likely. Choose terrain accordingly.
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Special Announcements
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The UAC encourages everyone to follow direction from state, city and county officicals. The following is from Joe Dougherty, spokesman for the Utah Division of Emergency Management:
Though outdoor recreation is still permitted under the governor’s Stay Safe/Stay Home directive, we recommend that people maintain a distance of at least 6 feet.
Be extra cautious to avoid injuries outdoors. We are working with our hospital systems to conserve as much personal protective equipment as possible in case of hospitalizations.
Most outdoor injuries can be prevented. Know the conditions and know your limits so you don’t end up in a hospital.
Weather and Snow
Skies are overcast with light snow falling in the mountains. We're up to 2-5" of new snow, generally 5% density. Temperatures are in the mid to upper teens.
The west-northwest winds picked up overnight and are blowing 10-15mph with gusts to 30. The highest elevation anemometers, however, are seeing hourly averages of 30-35mph with a few gusts to 50.
Riding conditions will remain excellent on northerly aspects, particularly in wind sheltered terrain. Many east to south to west aspects will have sucker snow above a breakable crust. But it's been a good run: storm totals since Wednesday are roughly 20-30".

Springtime in the Wasatch. We'll have snow showers that'll mostly wind down over the course of the day. We could see another inch or two...with skies turning partly cloudy this afternoon. Winds should remain gusty from the west northwest before losing steam and gently backing to the west and southwest. Temps will warm to the low to mid-20s. Another weak wave moves in tomorrow that may produce another couple inches with another quick hitting storm on Tuesday.
Recent Avalanches
It was a fairly active avalanche day in the Wasatch yesterday with people swarming the range. Many, many close calls: people caught and carried, airbags deployed, people swept over cliffbands, someone carried up into a tree as debris washed by....Yes, quite active yesterday...and fortunately only some minor scrapes and a lost ski pole or two.
By my count, there were about ten human triggered avalanches with six people caught and carried in three separate incidents in the central Wasatch with another three caught and two carried in the Ogden area mountains. I mostly attribute these numbers to the natural challenges of adequate social distancing on the up-track, ill-considered "safe-zones", and inherent risks of radical terrain (ie: Superior and Mt Ogden). A close look at a very close call yesterday in the No-Name area of the closed-for-the-season Snowbasin resort can be found HERE.
These soft slab avalanches were generally 1-2' deep and reportedly up to 300' wide on upper elevation primarily northeast to southeast facing terrain. The soft slabs involved either fresh wind drifts or still-tender interfaces of the storm snow on last weekend's crusts. In many cases, the avalanches broke above the person on ascent, making escape difficult if not impossible. All of these observations and avalanches can be found in the menu above. Thanks to all who submitted info.
+Observer Charlie Hussey has a before/after photo of Cardiac Ridge, below.+
Avalanche Problem #1
Wind Drifted Snow
New winds drifts will be sensitive in the higher elevations today and particularly on north to east to south facing aspects. These, I suspect, may be surprisingly sensitive and up to 12-18" deep along the higher elevations. Be warned that they may also be crossloaded beyond subridges and - when triggered - may stress the old interface another 1-2' down. Shooting cracks are classic signs of instability. These will be primarily along the upper elevations; but don't rule out a few pockets along the lee of exposed ridgelines of some mid-elevation terrain. (Example: Murdock Peak or Mt Aire)
Take care; these may be touchy today.
Avalanche Problem #2
New Snow
Sluffing will be likely on all aspects and elevations in the overnight snow. In the older "new snow", myriad slow-to-heal weaknesses remain in snowpack over the past week: low density stellars, graupel, and particularly weak snow above the old sun and melt-freeze crusts. Each slope must be assessed separately as there is a great deal of spatial variability in the overall snow stability. Most terrain out of wind can be ridden safely, but not all. Low angle slopes will ride quite well today without all the headaches and uncertainty.
Additional Information
Skiing and riding at closed ski resorts - Some resorts allow access now, and some do not. Please check HERE for the latest info on ski area access.
New to the backcountry (including riding at closed resorts) - Watch the award-winning, 15 minute Know Before You Go video, or take the 5-part, free online-learning series.
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.