Forecast for the Uintas Area Mountains

Issued by Craig Gordon for Thursday, December 6, 2018 - 3:08am
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
A thin band of clouds parked across the region overnight and temperatures are currently in the teens. West and southwest winds bumped into the 30's and 40's yesterday, but relaxed last night and currently blow 10-20 mph along the high peaks. Recent storms have pasted the region, laying down a nice coat of early season white paint. Riding and turning conditions are about the best they've been in years with snow depths across the range averaging 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') along with nearby wind data.
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.
And Ben was on the south end of the range near Duchesne Ridge and reports good coverage and riding.
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
Always a keen eye, Ted saw this Yamaha Hill avalanche from the highway near Evanston on his way to work on Tuesday. Breaking 6' deep and 250' wide, this slide was most likely triggered Monday, either low on the slope or remotely from the ridge. This avalanche clearly illustrates the type of avalanche dragon we're dealing with on slopes facing the north half of the compass which harbor, weak snow near the ground. More details on this slide are found here.
Avalanche Problem #1
Persistent Weak Layer
In most areas the snowpack is slowly adjusting to all the recent storm snow and there's plenty of terrain that you can ride today and not trigger an avalanche. But remember- our snowpack is still in its infancy, 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. So there's no reason to pull on the avalanche dragons tail. 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.
Above, images of the bed surface and Ted's pit profile-
This slide broke close to the ground near a crust and weak snow that formed in October.
Weston D was in Smith-Moorehouse and found a suspicious structure in that zone as well. In addition, his crew experienced a "spooky, tree shaking collapse"... (see pit profile above).
Avalanche Problem #2
Wind Drifted Snow
Yesterday's winds found plenty of light, fluffy snow to work with and I bet there's a few wind drifts that'll remain sensitive to our additional weight today. 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
A system moving across the south half of the state spreads clouds and a few snow showers into our region. High temperatures climb into the low and mid 20's and southwest winds blow 15-25 mph along the high ridges. High pressure builds Friday through the weekend, bringing sunny skies and warming temperatures.
General Announcements
The information in this advisory expires 24 hours after the date and time posted, but will be updated by 7:00 AM Friday December 7th, 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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