Forecast for the Uintas Area Mountains

Issued by Craig Gordon for Sunday, December 9, 2018 - 3:09am
In the wind zone in mid and upper elevation terrain at and above treeline, especially on slopes facing the north half of the compass, the avalanche danger is CONSIDERABLE. Human triggered avalanches are LIKELY on any steep slope harboring old snow near the ground. Remember- triggering a slide that breaks to old snow will have severe consequences.
Lose the old snow... you lose the problem and the avalanche danger drops dramatically.
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Special Announcements
Join me Tuesday night at the Park City library to discuss the state-of-the-state of the snowpack... black tie optional :)
Weather and Snow
Above the valley muck, you'll find clean air and clear skies with temperatures in the teens. West and northwest winds blow in the low to mid 20's. Recent storms have been good to the eastern front and the Uinta's are white. Riding and turning conditions are about the best they've been in years with snow depths across the range averaging just over 3'.
We are working to get the entire Uinta weather network back online, but got Windy Peak up and running yesterday. Above is 24 hour data from Trail Lake (9945') along with wind data from Windy Peak ( 10,662'). To view more regional weather stations click here.
Plowing is done on Mirror Lake Highway, but Wolf Creek Pass is still open. However, just 'cause you can see your rig parked near Wolf Creek, doesn't mean the terrain you're choosing to ride is good to go.
Remember- this is the time of year where most of us get tricked thinking there isn't enough snow to avalanche. Unfortunately, this is also the type of setup when most close calls and accidents occur. If you are getting out and about, be prepared for your own self rescue. Wear and know how to use an avalanche beacon, shovel, and probe.
Recent Avalanches
The last significant slide that we heard of was triggered earlier this week on Monday. Ted saw this Yamaha Hill avalanche from the highway near Evanston on his way to work. Breaking 6' deep and 250' wide, this slide was triggered either low on the slope or remotely from the ridge. This avalanche clearly illustrates the type of avalanche dragon we're dealing with on slopes facing the north half of the compass which harbor, weak snow near the ground. More details on this slide are found here.
Avalanche Problem #1
Persistent Weak Layer
We haven't heard of or seen any significant avalanche activity for nearly a week and of course, that's good news. But here's where it gets a little tricky. As the pack gets stronger it lures us into steep terrain, often without incident, giving us a false sense of snowpack stability. However, all we need to do is find one weakness, maybe around a bush or rock that we can't see buried underneath the snow, collapse the pack, and now we're staring down the barrel of a scary avalanche. The way I'm avoiding this scenario is by simply avoiding the terrain where this setup exists.... mid and upper elevation, north facing slopes that harbored snow prior to the big Thanksgiving storm. So there's no reason to pull on the avalanche dragons tail.
But wait.... here's the good news. There's a lot of terrain to ride today and not have to deal with unmanageable avalanche conditions, IF you chose slopes that had NO old snow prior to the big Thanksgiving storm. So here's your exit strategy, simply swing around to the south half of the compass, ride in the sun and you can have a blast!
In the distance, the type of terrain where you could trigger an avalanche that breaks to old, weak snow near the ground.
Here's what we found Thursday. A good looking pit profile in terrain which had just a little old snow prior to the big Thanksgiving storm.
Avalanche Problem #2
Wind Drifted Snow
There's an old wind drift or two that'll remain sensitive to our additional weight today. Found mostly on steep mid and upper elevation leeward slopes (like in the image above), as always, don't let your guard down. Be on the lookout for and avoid any fat, rounded piece of snow especially if it sounds hollow like a drum.
Additional Information
High pressure builds over the region today giving us mostly sunny skies, light northwest winds, and temperatures rising into the upper 30's. Overnight lows dip into the upper teens and low 20's. Look for increasing clouds late Monday with a chance for a weak storm clipping the region on Tuesday. A better shot of snow is slated for midweek.
General Announcements
The information in this advisory expires 24 hours after the date and time posted, but will be updated by 7:00 AM Monday December 10th, 2018.
If you're getting out and about, please let me know what you're seeing especially if you see or trigger and avalanche. I can be reached at craig@utahavalanchecenter.org or 801-231-2170
It's also a good time to set up one of our very popular avalanche awareness classes. Reach out to me and I'll make it happen.
This information does not apply to developed ski areas or highways where avalanche control is normally done. This advisory is from the U.S.D.A. Forest Service, which is solely responsible for its content. This advisory describes general avalanche conditions and local variations always occur.

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