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Forecast for the Uintas Area Mountains

Issued by Craig Gordon for Saturday, November 30, 2019 - 3:26am
HEADS UP... THE AVALANCHE DANGER REMAINS 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 continues evolving, 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 near the ridges and mid and upper elevations, cross-loading terrain and 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.
A MODERATE avalanche danger exists on all steep, wind drifted mid or lower elevation slopes and human triggered avalanches are possible.
Here's your exit strategy-
Wind sheltered low elevation terrain that held no old snow prior to the Thanksgiving storm generally offers 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 CONTINUED A BACKCOUNTRY AVALANCHE WARNING.
* TIMING...IN EFFECT UNTIL 6AM MST SUNDAY 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 WOLF CREEK PASS DOESN'T NECESSARILY MAKE THE SLOPE YOU CHOOSE TO RIDE MORE SAFE
Weather and Snow
Wow... what a storm... and the hits keep coming! The big Thanksgiving storm has been good to the eastern front, delivering an evenly distributed 35" of snow with just over 2" of water. Yesterday's late afternoon cold impulse slammed into the region, stacking up an additional 8"- 12" of light density snow in just a matter of hours, making for epic end-of-the-day canyon travel. Under mostly cloudy skies this morning, light snow showers linger over the region and temperatures have crashed into the single digits and low teens overnight. Westerly winds increased late yesterday and they're humming along this morning, with averages in the 20's and 30's, gusting in the 40's along the high ridges.
The big Thanksgiving storm is giving us a respectable snowpack and total snow depths average just over three 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.
For today-
Look for scattered snow showers this morning, thinning out through the afternoon and early evening. It'll be cold with highs only reaching into the mid teens and low 20's. West and northwest winds diminish slightly throughout the day, blowing in the 20's and 30's. A warm-up is expected Sunday as a ridge builds in. Increasing winds and periods of light snow are possible Sunday night and Monday, but accumulations will be minor and spotty. There is a better chance for light accumulations mid-week with a weakening storm system passing overhead.
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
It was a super busy avalanche day on the eastern front. Remember- the biggest clue to avalanches is.... avalanches! And you don't have to go far in order to get a feel for the avy hazard. Ted found these roadbank slides along Highway 150, just below the Ruth Lake Trailhead. More on his travels found here.
And... even if you're just headed out in the high country to retrieve your family Christmas tree, be aware of your surroundings and avoid being on or under steep, wind drifted slopes. You may be stepping out of your rig and into avalanche terrain.
Ad
Avalanche Problem #1
Persistent Weak Layer
Type
Location
Likelihood
Size
Description
It's pretty straight-forward-
Strong winds and dense, heavy, storm snow conspired against the strength of our weak, suspect, and structurally challenged 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
Since the storms beginning, winds have have been all over the map, cranking along the ridges, forming sensitive drifts that'll be reactive to our additional weight. 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.
Prior to the storm I observed weak surface snow last week, 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.
Yesterday, Micheal J found a suspect snowpack structure at 8,500'. More on his travels here.
Additional Information
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?
General Announcements
The information in this forecast expires in 24 hours, but will be updated by 7:30 AM Sunday Dec. 1st.
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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