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Forecast for the Uintas Area Mountains

Issued by Craig Gordon for Thursday, November 28, 2019 - 3:51am
HEADS UP... THE AVALANCHE DANGER WILL REMAIN SKETCHY FOR THE NEXT COUPLE OF DAYS!
Avalanche avoidance is key and it's really quite easy.... simply stay off of and out from under steep wind drifted slopes.
For today, in the wind zone at upper elevations, the avalanche danger is HIGH. As today's storm evolves, natural avalanches are likely and human triggered avalanches very likely on steep slopes facing the north half of the compass, particularly those that harbor weak, pre-existing snow.
In addition, strong winds are whipping up fresh drifts in mid elevation terrain, creating dangerous avalanche conditions, especially on slopes facing the north half of the compass. Expect pockets of CONSIDERABLE avalanche danger on steep mid elevation, wind drifted slopes, where human triggered avalanches are likely.
MODERATE avalanche danger exists on upper elevation southerly slopes where chutes and gullies may be crossloaded and human triggered avalanches are possible.
Here's your exit strategy-
Low elevation terrain and slopes that had no old snow prior to the Thanksgiving storm generally offer LOW avalanche danger and human triggered avalanches are unlikely.
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 ISSUED A BACKCOUNTRY AVALANCHE WARNING.
* TIMING...IN EFFECT UNTIL 6AM MST FRIDAY MORNING.
* AFFECTED AREA...FOR THE CENTRAL AND SOUTHERN WASATCH RANGE, INCLUDING THE WESTERN UINTAS.
* AVALANCHE DANGER...THE AVALANCHE DANGER TODAY IS HIGH
* REASON/IMPACTS...VERY DANGEROUS AVALANCHE CONDITIONS EXIST. HUMAN TRIGGERED AND NATURAL AVALANCHES ARE LIKELY. STAY OFF OF AND OUT FROM UNDER SLOPES STEEPER THAN 30 DEGREES. AVALANCHES MAY BE TRIGGERED FROM A DISTANCE OR FROM BENEATH STEEP SLOPES.
*ANY AVALANCHE TRIGGERED HAS THE POTENTIAL TO BREAK DEEPER AND WIDER THAN YOU MIGHT EXPECT.... INSTANTLY RUINING YOUR DAY.
And remember-
JUST 'CAUSE YOU CAN SEE YOUR RIG PARKED BY THE SIDE OF THE ROAD NEAR BALD MOUNTAIN OR WOLF CREEK PASS DOESN'T NECESSARILY MAKE THE SLOPE YOU CHOOSE TO RIDE MORE SAFE
Special Announcements
The First Annual Avalanche Awareness Week is December 2-7
We have a week full of fun and educational events planned. Check out the schedule here.
As part of your early season tune-up, consider taking an avalanche class. We have lots of avalanche education classes listed already, from Know Before You Go to Companion Rescue to our Backcountry 101. Click on the Education menu on our webpage for a full list of classes from the UAC and other providers. Check out the Know Before You Go eLearning program for free, online, avalanche classes.
Please join me on Friday Dec. 13th at 6:30 for a free avalanche awareness presentation in partnership with Wasatch County SAR. It's guaranteed to be entertaining, informative, and I'll share safety tips that allow you to rip powder safely and come home to your families at the end of the day.... pretty good deal... huh?
Weather and Snow
The big storm finally started stacking up snow late last night, delivering 4"-6" of dense snow across the range. Southerly winds continue to steal the headlines as they crank to 70 mph along the high ridges. Under mostly cloudy skies, overnight temperatures warmed into the teens and low 20's, where they register early this morning. Even with this weeks new snow, total snow depths are still on the thin side, averaging just under two feet. Travel is a bit more reasonable, but remember.... the Uinta's are made of huge boulders, so rock free roads and meadows are your safest bet.
Remember- our avalanche observations can begin before we even unload the rig. You get a good sense of the heightened avy danger just by rolling into a trailhead parking lot. It's pretty easy to tell, winds have been busy at work, whipping the snow into deep drifts. And if winds are drifting snow at low elevations, I gotta think to myself... "It's probably more sketchy in the bigger terrain at upper elevations... and that's gonna be the terrain to avoid today." It's almost like I've done this before :)
Above is 24 hour weather data from Windy Peak (10,662') and Trial Lake (9,945')
Click here for more real time Uinta winds, temperatures, and snow depth.
Recent Avalanches
No new avalanche activity to report
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Avalanche Problem #1
Persistent Weak Layer
Type
Location
Likelihood
Size
Description
Temperatures warmed overnight, winds continue to crank, and dense snow is falling with more to come. All these factors are going to test the strength of our structurally challenged snowpack. The good news is... additional snow is making travel a bit easier and now we have a few more options to move around on the snow. But in all reality, upper elevation terrain facing the north half of the compass is really the only game in town. The bad news with this terrain option is... these slopes are also the most dangerous because they harbor weak, shallow old snow left over from early season storms. And the honest news is.... we've got a fragile snowpack with potentially dangerous layering and today's storm is clearly the game changer.
So here's the setup-
Strong winds and dense, heavy, storm snow formed a cohesive piece of snow (slab) on top of a suspect, early season snow structure. Now here's the problem with this combo- while the snowpack feels strong underneath our skis, board, or sled, we've gotta think not only about the snow we're traveling in, but also the snow we're traveling on and right now, we've got some junk in the trunk. Once triggered, even a small avalanche may break a bit deeper and wider than you might expect, failing on the mid portion of the pack, revealing obstacles hidden under the thin facade of our early season snowpack. Remember- any slide could easily result in a season ending injury if you get raked over stumps, rocks, or deadfall. So the best way to avoid unpredictable avalanche conditions is to avoid where it exists. We can still have a great day by playing in big open meadows and simply staying off of and out from under steep terrain facing the north half fo the compass.
Avalanche Problem #2
Wind Drifted Snow
Type
Location
Likelihood
Size
Description
Winds have cranked for the past 24 hours and there's no shortage of snow available to blow around and form sensitive drifts that'll be reactive to our additional weight. And now there's even more wind! The majority of today's drifts are found on the leeward side of upper elevation ridges, but because of variable wind direction and strength, they've also formed lower downslope and may cross-loaded terrain features like chutes and gullies. You're best bet for avoidance is to simply steer clear of any fat, rounded piece of snow, especially if it looks chalky or sounds hollow like a drum. In addition, look for and listen to clues like whoomphing sounds or shooting cracks in the snow which are sure signs of unstable conditions.
I observed weak surface snow over the weekend, but now it's buried and hidden underneath several layers of storm snow. This makes for a tricky setup where we can trigger avalanches from a distance or even an adjacent slope.
Additional Information
Expect continued strong southerly winds today with averages in the 40's and 50's and gusts to 80 mph along the high peaks. Temperatures rise into the upper 20's and snow should continue through the day. 8"-12" of heavy, dense snow by about dinner time is a good bet.
General Announcements
The information in this forecast expires in 24 hours, but will be updated by 7:30 AM Friday Nov. 29th.
Once the snow begins to fly in earnest, this forecast will be updated each day by 7:30 AM.
In the mean-time, if you see or trigger an avalanche or just wanna let me know what you're seeing you can reach me directly at 801-231-2170
It'll be a minute or two before we're riding, but while you're waiting....
This is a great time of year to schedule one of our free avy awareness presentations.
You can email me directly craig@utahavalanchecenter.org
The information in this forecast is from the US Forest Service which is solely responsible for its content.

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