Forecast for the Uintas Area Mountains

Issued by Craig Gordon for Monday, December 17, 2018 - 3:13am
In the wind zone, at and above treeline, the avalanche danger is MODERATE. Human triggered avalanches are possible in steep, wind drifted terrain, especially on slopes facing the north half of the compass and particularly on those with an easterly component to their aspect. In addition, while becoming harder to initiate, human triggered avalanches breaking into deeper, buried weak layers is a distinct possibility, particularly on any steep slope harboring old snow near the ground. Remember- triggering a slide that breaks to old snow will immediately ruin your day.
Lose a little elevation or swing around to slopes with no old snow near the ground and the avalanche danger drops dramatically.
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Weather and Snow
Clouds are streaming into our area as a weakening weather system approaching the state shears apart. South and southeast winds ramped up midday Sunday and have been humming along in the 20's and 30's near the high peaks. Currently, temperatures are mild and in the mid and upper 20's. Riding and turning conditions are a mixed bag. Last weeks west and southwest winds transformed a lot of our big, exposed terrain into a lunar landscape. But, if you lose some elevation and head to wind sheltered, mid elevation terrain, you'll be rewarded with soft, creamy snow.
Above is recent hourly data from Upper Moffit Basin (9,126') 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. The steep slopes surrounding the pass are getting hammered... ridden hard and without incident. 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- 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.
Dan G was riding near the Mirror Lake Highway yesterday and reports a fairly deep pack (just over 100 cm.) and good stability... much different than last year at this time.
Recent Avalanches
No significant avalanche activity to report.
Avalanche Problem #1
Wind Drifted Snow
Winds are finding enough loose snow to blow around and form dense pieces of wind drifted snow on the leeward side of upper elevation ridges and cross-load terrain features like chutes and gullies. Fortunately, warm temperatures are welding these stiff slabs in place. While I think they'll be pretty lifeless today, 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.
Obviously the winds have been blowing at the upper elevations, stripping the snow and transporting it to the leeward side of ridges.
Avalanche Problem #2
Persistent Weak Layer
Recent snowpit stability tests combined with the lack of avalanche activity suggests the pack feels pretty comfortable in its own skin... and that's good news. However, the Uinta's are a big range and there's lots of variables when it comes to snowpack depth and strength. Remember- "persistent weak layers" in the snowpack are a headache because they remain problem children for long periods of time. And 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 usual suspect terrain comes to mind. Steep, rocky slopes with a shallow snowpack. So 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. 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.
Chad and Michael J found a suspect snowpack structure, yet their stability tests suggested the slab lacks energy. More details on their travels here.
Additional Information
Todays storm system is still on schedule to weaken and split as it approaches from the west. This will limit the amount of snow, with light to no accumulations expected. Temperatures rise into the low 30's and southwest winds gust into the 40's and 50's along the high ridges. A break is anticipated Tuesday, before the next storm system approaches from the Pacific Northwest Wednesday. While this system will track to our northeast, it will still bring the potential for a couple inches of snow along with strong winds.
General Announcements
The information in this advisory expires 24 hours after the date and time posted, but will be updated by 7:00 AM Tuesday December 18th, 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 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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