Forecast for the Salt Lake Area Mountains

Dave Kelly
Issued by Dave Kelly for
Sunday, March 31, 2024
Today, the avalanche danger is CONSIDERABLE in upper elevation terrain where humans are likely to trigger wind-drifted snow avalanches. The avalanche danger is MODERATE in mid elevation terrain and LOW in lower elevation terrain where it will still be possible to trigger avalanches failing within new or wind-drifted snow.
Today, use careful snowpack evaluation and cautious route finding when you are near or approaching exposed ridge-tops or areas where strong winds have transported new snow. Avalanches travel in packs, so if you see signs of instability, it is time to back off and choose lower angle terrain.
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Weather and Snow
Currently, under overcast skies light snow is falling. We have had 3"-6" new snow with .3"-.65" water overnight, which brings the most recent storm totals to 6"-15" of snow and .6"-1.20" water. Trail-head temperatures are in the mid-high 20's °F and the highest peaks are in the low 20's °F. Winds at the 9,000' ridge-lines are blowing from the southwest in the single digits gusting to the mid 20's MPH and at the 11,000 ridge-line winds are blowing from the south-southwest in the mid teen's gusting to the 40's MPH.
Today, skies will be overcast, temperatures should be 32-34°F, with winds blowing from the south-southwest 25 gusting to 35 MPH at the lower ridge-lines and 30 gusting to 40 MPH at the highest ridge-lines. Look for 3"-7" of snow with .30"-.5" of water and more snow in areas favored by southwest flow. The freezing level will start around 7,000' and drop throughout the day. There is a 15% chance of lightning and any strong frontal passages could bring periods of increased precipitation.
Our partners at the National Weather Service have issued a Winter Weather Advisory from now until midnight on Sunday March 31st.
Recent Avalanches
Yesterday, backcountry travelers reported long running soft slab avalanches and ski resort operations reported sensitive wind-drifts near ridgetops. UAC Forecaster Greg found the common theme was that the new snow needed a bit of wind to give it the body to pack a bigger punch. There was a close call in 1,000 Turns Gully where one backcountry traveler was caught, carried, and lost gear; and another skier triggered slide with a great video in Silver Fork. People also reported wet snow below 9,000' with natural wet loose slides reported in mid-Little Cottonwood Canyon in the Y, Y-Not, and Triangle.
Photo of sensitive wind slab on north facing Patsy (G. Gagne).

Check out all avalanches and observations HERE.
Avalanche Problem #1
Wind Drifted Snow
Continued moderate to strong winds overnight have created sensitive soft slabs of wind-drifted snow at the mid and upper elevations. Today, wind-drifted snow avalanches will be stiffer than they were yesterday and may start to break above you. While this problem will be more prevalent at the upper elevations, exposed ridge-tops below 9,500' will still see areas of wind-drifted snow. Avalanches involving wind-drifted snow may be over 2' deep and up to 150' wide.

Sensitive cornices can be found along many exposed ridgelines at the mid and upper elevations. Avoid traveling on or below corniced ridgelines as a cornice collapse could trigger a new or wind-drifted snow avalanche.
Photo (Brighton Snow Safety) of a skier triggered cornice avalanche that failed on Friday, March 29th on a northeast facing slope at 10,000'.
Avalanche Problem #2
New Snow
Triggering an avalanche involving sluffing or soft slabs of new snow is possible on all steep slopes. Yesterday, there were reports of weak snow on mid-elevation northeast facing terrain that was made up of small grained facets now 8"-10" below the surface running on a melt-freeze crust. These north and east facing slopes are the places I would be cautious of especially in terrain over 35 ° in steepness. This is similar to what I found in Days Fork on Friday.
Now that we are towards the end of March if any sun comes out at all expect to see rapid heating of the snow surface and new dry loose avalanches quickly turning to wet loose avalanches. With a freezing level hovering around 7,000' wet loose new snow avalanches are possible and areas that did not have a good refreeze overnight are more susceptible to wet snow avalanches throughout the day.
Additional Information
In 2004, local avalanche researcher Ian McCammon wrote a pivotal paper discussing the Human Factors or how we contribute to the avalanche triangle. These FACETS are worth thinking about all the time, but I find them especially relevant as we head into springtime. Read the full article HERE.
Illustration: Mike Clelland
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.