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Forecast for the Uintas Area Mountains

Issued by Craig Gordon for Tuesday, December 3, 2019 - 3:51am
For today, in the wind zone at upper elevations, the avalanche danger is CONSIDERABLE. Human triggered avalanches are likely on steep slopes facing the north half of the compass, particularly those that harbor weak, pre-existing snow. Any avalanche that breaks to old snow near the ground will result in a deep and dangerous slide.
In addition, winds have been busy at work at mid and upper elevations and I bet there's a fresh wind drift or two that'll react to our additional weight. On steep, wind drifted, mid and upper elevation slopes you'll find a MODERATE avalanche danger 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. South facing terrain with no old snow and big open meadows with no steep terrain above or adjacent to where you're riding is the ticket.
Learn how to read the forecast here
Weather and Snow
A thin layer of clouds drifted into the region late yesterday and hung around overnight. As such, temperatures remain relatively warm, in the low to mid 20's. Along the high ridges west and southwest winds blow 25-35 mph. The big Thanksgiving storm gave us a great start to the winter season and we now have a respectable snowpack with total snow depths averaging just under 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-
Expect partly cloudy skies with temperatures rising into the 30's. Winds mellow somewhat while clouds increase late in the day as a storm system dives to the south. Light snow develops overnight and lingers into Wednesday.
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 significant avalanche activity to report from yesterday. Below you'll find info from over the weekend-
Micheal J collapsed this low angle slope that spider-webbed all around him. It didn't slide because it wasn't steep enough to avalanche. However, this is a huge red flag telling us we have an inherently dangerous snowpack. Micheal has a great ob found here.
Older news from Upper Moffit Basin. Crown was barely visible... I drew in dimensions with the Power Point "Sharpie" option. Breaking naturally and failing on weak snow near the ground, looks like this well connected slab released on the 28th or 29th
Avalanche Problem #1
Persistent Weak Layer
Here's the deal-
Mark's great video from Sunday's outing clearly illustrates the problem that isn't going away anytime soon. Dense, heavy, Thanksgiving storm snow coupled with several days of raging winds conspired against the strength of our weak, suspect, and structurally challenged early season snowpack. Mark posted an outstanding observation.... more on his travels and insight is found here.
Now here's the problem-
As the snowpack settles it's gaining strength... and that's good news. The bad, in your face news is... upper elevation slopes facing the north half of the compass harbor old October snow (weak layers) and they're producing big, booming collapses (whoomphing sounds) and cracks shooting for hundreds of feet. This is a huge red flag indicative of dangerous avalanche conditions. As a matter of fact, all you need to do is dig down a few feet and you'll clearly see the overall snow structure suggests we've got a sketchy snowpack. This is the type of setup where we don't even have to be on the slope in order to trigger a slide, we just need to be connected to it. What this means is... we can initiate avalanches from a distance. Once triggered, even a small avalanche may break a bit deeper and wider than you might expect, failing near the ground, 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.
It doesn't mean we can't ride, but what I do know is 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, upper elevation terrain facing the north half of the compass.
Avalanche Problem #2
Wind Drifted Snow
While there's not an abundance of loose snow available to blow around, the Uinta's are a huge range and I bet there's a fresh drift or two that'll react to our additional weight. Found mostly on upper elevation leeward slopes, there might be a fresh drift or two cross-loaded in a terrain feature like a chute or gully. 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.
Additional Information
The First Annual Avalanche Awareness Week is this week, running from 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 Wednesday Dec. 4th.
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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