Forecast for the Salt Lake Area Mountains

Drew Hardesty
Issued by Drew Hardesty on
Tuesday morning, April 25, 2023
During the spring, there are typically three different avalanche problems:
1. Wet Snow: Wet loose avalanches, wet slab avalanches, and lastly glide avalanches.
2. New Snow: New storm snow instability as soft slab avalanches and loose dry avalanches.
3. Wind Drifted Snow: Wind slabs - soft or hard drifts of wind-blown snow.
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Special Announcements
Regular avalanche forecasts have ended. This page will be updated with every storm until May 7th, and we will continue posting observations and avalanches, so please keep submitting them as you get out in the mountains.
Weather and Snow
Spring in the Wasatch - lightning and thunder, daffodils and tulips. Rain in the valley, snow on the benches.
A cold Pacific storm system arrived yesterday, with snow falling in earnest in the overnight hours. The upper Cottonwoods and the Park City ridgeline picked up 6-8" of roughly 10% density snow. By now, we all know that many areas of the state have broken records for snow and/or snow water equivalent.
But this overnight snowfall pushed Alta ski area just across the 900" finish line.

Skies are overcast. Mountain temperatures have dropped back into the teens. Winds are out of the west-northwest, blowing 15-20mph with gusts to 30. Along the 11,000' level, winds are blowing 30-40mph with gusts to 50.
By nature, closed Low pressure systems make it notoriously difficult to forecast snowfall and wind, but I suspect we'll see another 1-3" of additional snow throughout the day. As such, it may be snowing graupel (pellet snow) in one drainage and just mostly cloudy a few drainages to the south. Winds should be out of the northwest and north and gradually lose steam. Temps will be in the upper teens to mid-20s. We start to dry out overnight with high pressure building in for awhile. A weak system passes by to the north on Thursday but we'll only see a few errant clouds and increased winds. Other than that, we see some of the warmest mountain temps of the year by late weekend into early next week.
A list of automated weather stations.

Wind speeds out of the west northwest are enough to transport snow at the mid and upper elevations. Watch for shooting cracks in recently wind drifted terrain. Test slopes should also give some indication of stability. Continue to use safe travel habits. Many people had close calls over the weekend with not much more snow than this.
Recent Avalanches
No reports of any avalanches from Monday.
A list of observations.
Avalanche Problem #1
Wet Snow
When cold, dry snow becomes wet for the first time, it almost always means wet sluffs (loose snow that fans outward as it descends).
Larger wet slab avalanches can happen when melt water percolates through a layered, winter snowpack for the first time especially after 3 days of strong melting combined with no refreeze at night.
Luckily, wet avalanches usually don't last forever because over time, days or weeks of percolating meltwater, all the layers in the snow disappear, and the snow becomes homogenous and dense, turning into a stable summer-like snowpack. Typically, this cycle of instability maturing into stability occurs first on the south-facing slopes in early spring, then progresses to the east and west-facing slopes in mid-spring, and finally, by late spring, the upper elevation north facing slopes go through a wet avalanche cycle.
Finally, glide avalanches occur regularly in spring as the entire snowpack slides slowly on the ground like a glacier until they suddenly release into a full-depth avalanche. These occur periodically on steep rock slabs and occasionally on steep grassy slopes. Notorious glide avalanche locations include Stairs Gulch or the rock slabs in Broads Fork, which you should always avoid in spring. Avoid crossing under any slopes with telltale glide cracks in the snowpack. Remember, they come down randomly, even at night.
The bottom line for wet avalanches:
Get out early and get home early. Get off of--and out from underneath--any slope approaching 35 degrees or steeper when the snow becomes wet enough not to support your weight. Warning signs may include:
  • Rollerballs (pinwheels) in new snow that is getting wet for the first time
  • Natural or human triggered wet sluffs
  • Small sluffs fanning out into larger slides or running long distances
  • Cornices breaking off
  • Several days of strong melting combined with no refreeze at night.
These signs mean it's time to head home or change to an aspect with cooler snow. Remember, even "smaller" slides can be dangerous in high-consequence terrain, such as above a terrain trap, trees, rocks, cliffs, or a long, large avalanche path. Plan your trip to have a safe exit back to the car.
Avalanche Problem #2
New Snow
We almost always get winter-like snow storms well in the Spring. Treat each storm just like you would in winter. Avalanches can occur within the new snow typically from 1) low-density layers deposited during the storm, 2) high precipitation intensity during a storm, and 3) from wind slabs created during the storm.
It's easy to test the new snow as you travel by jumping on small test slopes to see if they avalanche or dig down with your hand to see how well the new snow is bonding. Snow can change dramatically in both space and time, so never let your guard down. Especially avoid any steep slope with recent wind deposits, which are almost always dangerous.
Practice the usual backcountry protocol, go one at a time, never travel above other people and practice all the usual risk reduction measures and low-risk travel rituals you learn in avalanche classes.
Avalanche Problem #3
Wind Drifted Snow
Each storm will be worth looking at the winds to find out which direction they have blown from and what direction they will be blowing for the day. Wind can rapidly load snow onto steep slopes, making those slopes more prone to avalanching. The wind drifted snow looks rounded and pillowy; in some cases, it can sound hollow like a drum. If you see shooting cracks, it's a sign you may have hit a wind slab. Click on this link HERE and check upper elevation winds for speed and direction.
Additional Information
  • Regular avalanche forecasts with avalanche danger ratings have ended. We will continue to post all observations so please keep submitting them.
  • Thanks to all of you who have sent observations this season. Crowd-sourcing is the most valuable information we get. And special thanks to all the Utah avalanche professionals: ski areas, Utah Department of Transportation, guides and educators, Powderbirds, and Park City Powder Cats.
  • Thanks to Darren Van Cleave and the National Weather Service who provide office space, weather forecasting, tech support, and great company.
  • A special thanks to all of you who donate directly to the Utah Avalanche Center. We couldn't do this without your support.
  • Some ski areas are closed and each has a different uphill travel policy. Remember that areas open to uphill travel are no longer doing any avalanche mitigation work and must be treated as backcountry terrain.
  • The Utah Avalanche Center is a partnership between the Forest Service and the non-profit Utah Avalanche Center. On the Forest Service side, thanks to unwavering support from our boss Renee Flanagan, Forest Supervisor Dave Whittekiend, the rest of the Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest, Michael Engelhard and Brian Murdock of the Manti-La Sal National Forest and the financial support from Chris Hartman of the Forest Service Intermountain Region. Two-thirds of the Utah Avalanche Center funding along with the awareness and education programs comes from the non-profit Utah Avalanche Center. Our forecast staff includes Director Mark Staples, Drew Hardesty, Toby Weed, Craig Gordon, Brett Kobernick, Eric Trenbeath, Trent Meisenheimer, and Nikki Champion, and Dave Kelly. Our nonprofit staff includes Executive Director Chad Brackelsberg, Greg Gagne, Paige Pagnucco, Andy Nassetta, Hannah Whitney, Dave Coyne, Francine Mullen, McKinley Talty, Paul Diegel, and Board of Directors Nicole Sumner, Kate Bowman, Michael Brill, Michael Shea, Rich Mrazik, Al Richards, Caitlin Hansen, Christian Schauf, Dara Cohen, Eric Quilter, Jacob Splan, Sara Gibbs, Sarah Moles, Ted Roxbury, TJ Kolanko, and Tyler Hansen.
  • Direct funding comes from longtime partners, Utah Division Recreation, Utah Division of Emergency Management, and Salt Lake County
  • Generous support in the form of donated lift tickets and daily observations comes from Ski Utah, Alta, Brighton, Beaver Mountain, Deer Valley, Powder Mountain, Snowbasin, Snowbird, Solitude, and Vail Resorts.
  • We couldn't access many areas without support and snormobiles from Ski-Doo, Karl Malone Powersports SLC, Polaris, Young Powersports, and Northstarts Ultimate Outdoors.
  • Business sponsors who donate to the Utah Avalanche Center are too numerous to list here but you can find them on our Sponsors Page.