Forecast for the Uintas Area Mountains

Issued by Craig Gordon for Tuesday, January 8, 2019 - 3:07am
Heads up- don't let the warm sunshine lull you into a false sense of complacency... it's still the real deal out there today and dangerous avalanche conditions exist.
In the wind zone, at and above treeline the avalanche danger is HIGH. Human triggered avalanches are VERY LIKELY on steep slopes with recent deposits of wind drifted snow, particularly those facing the north half of the compass, and especially those an easterly component to their aspect
Any avalanche that breaks into deeper buried weak layers near the ground will result in a scary, dangerous, and possibly unsurvivable avalanche.
CONSIDERABLE avalanche danger is found on steep, wind drifted slopes at mid elevations, and human triggered avalanches are LIKELY in terrain facing the north half of the compass.
Even low elevation terrain is getting in on the act where you'll find MODERATE avalanche danger on steep snow covered slopes.
If you're looking to ride today, simply head to big open meadows with no steep terrain above or connected to where you're traveling.
Low
Moderate
Considerable
High
Extreme
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Avalanche Warning
IN EFFECT FROM 6 AM MST THIS MORNING TO 6 AM MST WEDNESDAY
THE FOREST SERVICE UTAH AVALANCHE CENTER IN SALT LAKE CITY HAS CONTINUED A BACKCOUNTRY AVALANCHE WARNING.
FOR THE BEAR RIVER RANGE...UINTA MOUNTAINS...AND PROVO AREA MOUNTAINS OF NORTHERN UTAH.
THE AVALANCHE DANGER FOR THE WARNING AREA IS HIGH TODAY.
VERY DANGEROUS AVALANCHE CONDITIONS EXIST. HEAVY SNOW COMBINED WITH WIND HAS CREATED WIDESPREAD AREAS OF UNSTABLE SNOW. BOTH HUMAN TRIGGERED AND NATURAL AVALANCHES ARE LIKELY. STAY OFF OF AND OUT FROM UNDERNEATH SLOPES STEEPER THAN 30 DEGREES
Weather and Snow
Man... what a storm!
The eastern front lit up with most areas across the range receiving a solid foot of snow and just under an inch of water. Trial Lake was the overachiever, stacking up 17" of snow with 1.3" of H2O.
Under clear skies, temperatures are in the teens and low 20's. West and southwest winds relaxed somewhat overnight and currently blow in the low to mid 20's. Riding and turning conditions are gonna be quite good. Yep, it'll be over-the- head and over-the-hood, but you're gonna have to be on your "A" game. Looking for safe riding alternatives? Of course you are, so steer yourself towards wind sheltered, low angle terrain... that's where you'll find the goods today.
Above is hourly data from Trial Lake (9,945') along with recent wind data from Windy Peak (10,662'). To view more regional weather stations click here.
Recent Avalanches
Yesterday, a very experienced avalanche professional and forecaster with decades of experience triggered this large avalanche as he stepped out onto the slope to investigate the snow structure. While the slide broke about 10-15 feet above him, it was years of professional experience that gave him the upper hand by utilizing a sub-ridge, or what we call an island of safety to quickly retreat to.
Recent winds helped connect this very cohesive hard slab that broke to weak, early season snow near the ground. The crown averaged 2'-4' in depth, but in some places was 6' deep. The mind-blower is this... it's a super connected piece of snow, stretching 900' in width, running 500' vertically, with debris blasting into a group of trees pictured below.
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Avalanche Problem #1
Wind Drifted Snow
Type
Location
Likelihood
Size
Description
Winds were all over the place during and right after the storm and there's no shortage of snow available to blow around and form fresh drifts that'll remain reactive to our additional weight today. Found mostly along the leeward side of mid and upper elevation ridges, recent strong winds also cross-loaded snow around terrain features like chutes and gullies, and drifted snow lower downslope than we usually expect. In any case, fresh drifts are quite connected and may easily break deeper and wider than you might expect. You're gonna have to be on your toes today, so look for cracking out in front of your skis, board, or sled which are obvious red flags and big clues to unstable snow. Also, avoid any fat, rounded piece of snow especially if it sounds hollow like a drum.
Avalanche Problem #2
Persistent Weak Layer
Type
Location
Likelihood
Size
Description
Our recent storm brought strong winds coupled with dense, heavy snow. That combo brought dormant, persistent weak layers back to life, particularly in terrain where the snowpack is thin and weak. Remember- "persistent weak layers" in the snowpack are a headache because 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 deep, dangerous avalanche. The usual suspects come to mind- steep, rocky terrain and slopes that have already avalanched this year. In addition, periphery terrain where the pack has remained shallow all season should be considered guilty until proven otherwise. Another wild card to add to the deck is the possibility of triggering an avalanche low on the slope or even from a distance.
Avoidance is the name of the game today.... simply avoid being on or under steep wind drifted slopes.
Above... a viddy from late last week shows the snowpack structure prior top the big weekend storm.
Additional Information
A short-lived ridge of high pressure gives us warm, dry weather with temperatures rising into the mid 30's. West and southwest winds remain light, blowing less than 25 mph along the high peaks. A weakening storm system falls apart for tomorrow, producing clouds and increasing southerly winds. We can expect a passing flurry or two and cooler temperatures, but no significant weather.
General Announcements
The information in this advisory expires 24 hours after the date and time posted, but will be updated by 7:00 AM Wednesday January 9th, 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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