Forecast for the Uintas Area Mountains

Issued by Craig Gordon for Tuesday, December 4, 2018 - 3:04am
In the wind zone in mid and upper elevation terrain at and above treeline, especially on slopes facing the north half of the compass, the avalanche danger is CONSIDERABLE. Human triggered avalanches are LIKELY on any steep slope harboring old snow near the ground. Remember- triggering a slide that breaks to old snow will have severe consequences.
Lose the old snow... you lose the problem and the avalanche danger drops dramatically.
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Weather and Snow
Skies cleared overnight and temperatures cratered into block heater territory with most remote stations averaging close to -10 degrees. Fortunately, west and northwest winds are light, blowing less than 15 mph along the high peaks. However, that's enough to put windchill values near -25 degrees. Here's the bright side, riding and turning conditions are about the best they've been in years and snow depths across the range average just over 3'.
We are working to get the entire Uinta weather network back online. In the meantime, above is 24 hour data from Trail Lake (9945').
Jeff Duenwald surveys his weekend turns on a south facing slope (lookers left portion of the image) with no old snow near the ground. Looks pretty straight-forward, but here's the problem... as snow stacks up and terrain turns white, even slopes we're familiar with can appear uniform and small nuances in aspect can mean the difference between riding safely and triggering an avalanche. A true, big mountain BA, Jeff is in his mid 70's and is on the snow nearly everyday. He's been tagging big mountain approaches and ascents since the 60's. His longevity in the mountains is rooted in making smart decisions, not by rolling the dice or taking chances
Meanwhile on the North Slope, Ted found excellent riding conditions yesterday and avoided the avy danger by riding lower elevation terrain which had no old snow prior to the big Thanksgiving storm. More on his travels here.
Plowing is done on Mirror Lake Highway, but Wolf Creek Pass is still open. 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- this is the time of year where most of us get tricked thinking there isn't enough snow to avalanche. Unfortunately, this is also the type of setup when most close calls and accidents occur. 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.
Recent Avalanches
No new avalanche activity to report, but this caught my attention from Ted's ob... "numerous rumbling collapses today was the big red flag along with a poor snow pack structure."
Avalanche Problem #1
Persistent Weak Layer
The snowpack is slowly adjusting to all the recent storm snow and we haven't heard of or seen any recent avalanche activity in about 5 days... that's good news. As a matter of fact, I bet there are plenty of slopes where you could ride today and not trigger an avalanche. But remember- our snowpack is still relatively shallow, its structure sketchy, and I consider it guilty until proven otherwise. Now here's where it gets tricky, as the pack gets stronger it lures us into steep terrain, often without incident, giving us a false sense of snowpack stability. However, 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 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. Lose the old snow and you lose the problem.... done and done.
In the distance, the type of terrain where you could trigger an avalanche that breaks to old, weak snow near the ground.
Weston D's pit from Saturday, Ted's pit from yesterday. Structure, along with continued collapsing is the big red flag with both observations. Their take on the current state of the state of the snowpack can be found here.
Avalanche Problem #2
Wind Drifted Snow
A few old wind drifts might still be sensitive to our additional weight. Found mostly on steep mid and upper elevation leeward slopes (like in the image above), 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.
Additional Information
Look for partly cloudy skies with temperatures climbing into the upper teens and low 20's. Winds remain light for most of the day, but switch to the southwest and increase slightly late in the day as a weak storm clips the region. Expect a few flurries late tonight and again on Thursday with high pressure building into the weekend.
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 December 5th, 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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