Forecast for the Uintas Area Mountains

Issued by Craig Gordon for Wednesday, January 23, 2019 - 3:02am
In the wind zone at and above treeline, you'll find you'll find CONSIDERABLE avalanche danger. Human triggered avalanches are PROBABLE on all steep wind drifted slopes, particularly those with an easterly component to their aspect. Any avalanche that breaks into deeper buried weak layers near the ground will result in a scary and very dangerous avalanche that will instantly ruin your day.
MODERATE avalanche danger exists on steep, lower elevation slopes facing the north half of the compass and human triggered avalanches are POSSIBLE.
Here's your exit strategy.... low elevation south facing terrain still has cold snow and a generally LOW avalanche danger.
Learn how to read the forecast here
Weather and Snow
High clouds slid into the region overnight as a weak storm grazes the north half of the state. Currently, temperatures are in the single digits and low teens. West and northwest winds remained well-behaved overnight, but just bumped up slightly in the past hour and blow 20-30 mph along the high peaks.
Above is hourly data from Trial Lake (9,945') and Windy Peak (10,662'). To view more regional weather stations click here.
Unfortunately, Monday night's post-frontal winds damaged large swaths of upper elevation snow. But there's plenty of wind sheltered terrain that offers deep, cold, surface snow which rests on a soft, reboundable, spongy base... mmm.... spongy :)
Recent Avalanches
Mid and lower elevation terrain facing the north half of the compass came to life yesterday and riders were able to trigger avalanches low on the slope. The sled triggered slides in the images above (top is near Timber Lakes, bottom is near Norway Flats) occurred at about 8,000' in elevation, in steep terrain, with an easterly component to its aspect, failing on our midpack weakness.
Avalanche Problem #1
Persistent Weak Layer
The snowpack is slowly adjusting to the recent big storms, but the snowpack remains sketchy and the distinct possibility of triggering a deep, dangerous slide still exists. There's no mystery here.... as a matter of fact it's basic snow science. Now I'm no snow scientist, but what I do know is this... beginning last Thursday, the snowpack received a remarkable amount of snow, water, and wind. The bigger issue is all this added weight stacked up on a weak snowpack and it just needs a little break in the action and some time to adjust. What we need to do is practice a bit of patience and remember, in due time the pack will begin to heal and become a little less agitated. Right now however, we're at a critical juncture in the life of the snowpack where all it takes is for us to come along and collapse a slope, essentially knocking the legs out from underneath it, and now we're staring down the barrel of a dangerous avalanche.
So here's where it gets even more tricky. Many steep slopes throughout the range experienced a widespread natural avalanche cycle late last week, but recent snow and wind has filled in much of that evidence. So today it's all gonna look white and that's the challenge. You can ride some slopes without incident (perhaps they already slid) and think you're good to go, while an adjacent slope that remained intact throughout the storm, is just waiting for a trigger like us to roll up and tip the balance. Check out Michael J's decision making process and insight to travel here.
So how do we manage an unmanageable avalanche? We simply avoid it... avoid being on, underneath, or connected to steep wind drifted slopes. And here's your exit strategy... great riding conditions exist on low angle, low elevation slopes facing the south half of the compass. Done and done.
Weston D was in Smith-Morehouse yesterday and his pit profile indicates the pack is gaining strength... good news. Yet his stability tests suggest our midpack facets still remain reactive to stability tests... bad news.
Avalanche Problem #2
Wind Drifted Snow
Winds have been busy at work and there's no shortage of snow to blow around and form fresh, stiff drifts along the leeward side of upper elevation ridges and around chutes and gullies. Don't get fooled into thinking today's fresh drifts are the only avalanche dragon you're dealing with. Underneath the new drifts are old, connected drifts, that once triggered, will break deeper and wider than you might expect. Today you'll want to utilize all the awareness tools in your quiver. Look for obvious clues to unstable snow like shooting cracks out in front of our skis, board, or sled. Also remember to avoid any fat, rounded piece of snow especially if it sounds hollow like a drum. And finally the hugest clue... recent avalanches on the same kind of terrain you want to ride on.
Road cuts are great test slopes where you can see how they react to your additional weight before committing to bigger terrain. My partner Jeff checks out a weak layer of sugary, faceted snow formed during the January cold snap.
Additional Information
A quick moving storm system crosses the region today and tonight. Look for increasing clouds with light snow showers developing and high temperatures reaching into the mid 20's. Northwest winds ramp up throughout the day and blow in the 30's and 40's, peaking into the 60's by late in the day. A better shot of snow develops overnight and we should see 3"-6" stack up rather quickly, before tapering off early Thursday morning.
General Announcements
The information in this advisory expires 24 hours after the date and time posted, but will be updated by 7:00 AM Thursday January 24th, 2019.
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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