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Forecast for the Salt Lake Area Mountains

Dave Kelly
Issued by Dave Kelly for
Sunday, April 30, 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.

Taking a chance with steep alpine slopes that have not had a solid refreeze in a few days is a dangerous game.
Low
Moderate
Considerable
High
Extreme
Learn how to read the forecast here
Special Announcements
Regular avalanche forecasts have ended. This page will be updated every few days 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
Skies are clear, and high pressure remains overhead resulting in dry stable conditions with temperatures averaging 20˚F above normal. The freezing level will remain above 9,500' until Tuesday. The snow surface may cool overnight but this will only be superficial and the window for supportable riding conditions will be limited. I like to use the Atwater Study Plot to see surface temperature as I make my travel plans. The colder the snow surface the larger window I have for safe travel. Other factors that can affect snow surface temperature and conditions are cloud cover, wind speed, and relative humidity.

Later this week look for a freezing level falling to 8,000' and snow possible on Thursday and Friday.

For the most up to date mountain weather check out the NWS snow page HERE.
Recent Avalanches
Most slopes have seen a few days of above normal temperatures with strong spring sun and warmth the last few days and the snowpack is settling into a spring structure. With unusually warm temperatures and non-freezing nights forecasted over the next three days, expect to see wet loose activity even on northerly aspects above 10,000'. There is a chance of wet-slab avalanches with the lack of freezing temperatures and the window for safe riding in steep terrain will be limited until it starts to freeze solidly at night.

Check out our most recent list of observations.
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Avalanche Problem #1
Wet Snow
Type
Location
Likelihood
Size
Description
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. These glide avalanches 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
Type
Location
Likelihood
Size
Description
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
Type
Location
Likelihood
Size
Description
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 snowmobiles 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.