Forecast for the Uintas Area Mountains

Issued by Craig Gordon for Sunday, January 20, 2019 - 3:09am
DANGEROUS AVALANCHE CONDITIONS EXIST
In the wind zone at and above treeline the avalanche danger is HIGH. Deep, dangerous, human triggered avalanches are LIKELY on all steep wind drifted slopes, especially those facing the north half of the compass and particularly those with an easterly component to their aspect.
In steep, shady terrain at mid elevations, you'll find CONSIDERABLE avalanche danger and human triggered avalanches are PROBABLE.
In either case, any avalanche that breaks into deeper buried weak layers near the ground will result in a scary and potentially unsurvivable avalanche.
MODERATE avalanche danger exists on steep, lower elevation slopes and human triggered avalanches are POSSIBLE.
Here's your exit strategy... simply head to big open meadows with no steep terrain above, adjacent, or connected to where you're traveling.
Low
Moderate
Considerable
High
Extreme
Learn how to read the forecast here
Avalanche Warning
THE FOREST SERVICE UTAH AVALANCHE CENTER IN SALT LAKE CITY HAS CONTINUED A BACKCOUNTRY AVALANCHE WARNING.
* TIMING...THROUGH 5 AM MST MONDAY
* AFFECTED AREA...THE WESTERN UINTA MOUNTAINS.
* AVALANCHE DANGER...THE AVALANCHE DANGER IS HIGH...HUMAN TRIGGERED AVALANCHES ARE LIKELY ON ALL STEEP WIND DRIFTED SLOPES.
* REASON/IMPACTS...DANGEROUS AVALANCHE CONDITIONS CONTINUE...CREATED BY THE SNOW AND WIND FROM PREVIOUS STORMS. AVOID BEING ON OR UNDERNEATH STEEP WIND DRIFTED SLOPES.
Special Announcements
Bad news out of the Manti-Skyline where Michael Besnedorfer, 26, of Nephi triggered an avalanche late Friday. He was not wearing an avalanche beacon and his body was recovered yesterday. Our collective energy, thoughts, and peaceful vibes go out to Michaels friends and family.
Brett and Mark were at the scene and their report is found here.
Weather and Snow
Skies cleared late last night, revealing a big, bright, beautiful moon. Currently southwest winds blow in the 20's and temperatures are in the low to mid 20's. Thursday's big storm pounded the eastern front, stacking up 20"of snow with just over 2" of snow water equivalent (SWE)... huge numbers for the Uinta's. Riding and turning conditions are funky and dangerous up high, so the only place to be today is low elevation, low angle, wind sheltered terrain.
Above is hourly data from Trial Lake (9,945') and Windy Peak (10,662'). To view more regional weather stations click here.
Our partners and good friends at the National Weather Service compiled a detailed viddy explaining the upcoming storm.
Recent Avalanches
With a good thump Jason B triggered this monster yesterday on an upper elevation ENE aspect. Breaking 4'-6' deep and a couple hundred feet wide, this slide failed on weak, midpack snow and broke to the dirt in several place. Once triggered, these are the type of avalanche dragons that are coming alive in our snowpack.
Ad
Avalanche Problem #1
Persistent Weak Layer
Type
Location
Likelihood
Size
Description
Make no mistake.... these are dangerous conditions and the exact type of setup when most avalanche accidents occur.
Nothing has changed since the beginning of the big storm and avalanche conditions remain sketchy. To me, the most important thing is returning to my family at the end of the day and the way to accomplish this is by exercising some patience and allowing the snowpack to adjust to Thursday's onslaught of snow, water, and wind. It's no mystery what's going on here and recent snowpack history reveals that each time our pack has received a big thump of water, snow, and wind, dormant weak layers of snow roar back to life. What I saw Friday and again Saturday confirms this theory. Avalanches are breaking into midpack weak layers or even close to the ground, particularly in terrain facing the north half of the compass where the snowpack is thin and weak. Remember, 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've triggered a slide that quickly gets out of hand. So here's the deal... we've got to think about not only the snow riding in, but also the snow we're riding on.
Now here's where it gets complicated- this setup isn't going to magically heal itself overnight, so avoidence is the key for the next few days. Simply avoid being on, underneath, or connected to steep slopes, especially those facing the north half of the compass. 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.
The slide above was triggered Friday from a distance and the debris instantly flushed through the trees, clearly illustrating immediate life changing consequences if you got caught and strained through these baseball bats.
JG's beautiful pit profile clearly illustrates our current snowpack structure.
Avalanche Problem #2
Wind Drifted Snow
Type
Location
Likelihood
Size
Description
Winds bumped up early this morning and there's no shortage of snow to blow around and form fresh, shallow drifts along the leeward side of upper elevation ridges and around chutes and gullies. Don't get fooled into thinking shallow 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.
Avalanche Problem #3
New Snow
Type
Location
Likelihood
Size
Description
Just the sheer amount of fresh snow from the big Thursday storm warrants a mention of new snow avalanches even down in lower elevation terrain. Heads up if you're walking the dog, going for a trail run, or a family snowshoe outing.
Additional Information
Today, expect partly cloudy skies with temperatures rising into the 30's. West and southwest winds ramp up and should be blowing in the 40's by about dinnertime.
A quiet day today will be followed by a winter storm with strong winds and significant snow accumulations early Monday into Tuesday.
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 January 21st, 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.

Support the Avalanche Center through your purchases

Discount lift tickets
All proceeds from ticket sales benefit the UAC when you purchase your next lift tickets.
Need new gear?
Make your next purchase from our Affiliate Partners and the UAC will receive a portion of the sales.
Shop
Sign up for our newsletters, emails and daily forecasts to stay up to date.
Subscribe