Forecast for the Uintas Area Mountains

Issued by Craig Gordon for Monday, February 11, 2019 - 3:16am
In the wind zone, at and above treeline, the avalanche danger is HIGH. Human triggered avalanches are LIKELY on all steep wind drifted slopes, especially those facing the north half of the compass. Any avalanche that breaks into deeper buried weak layers near the ground will result in a very scary, dangerous, and quite possibly unsurvivable avalanche that will instantly ruin your day.
You'll find CONSIDERABLE avalanche danger on steep, mid elevation, wind drifted slopes and human triggered avalanches are PROBABLE.
Recent strong winds have created unusual avalanche conditions in low elevation terrain where a MODERATE avalanche danger exists. Human triggered avalanches are POSSIBLE on steep slopes near our trailheads, foothills, and possibly our own backyards.
Yes, it's still sketchy out there but it doesn't mean we can't ride. Choose gentle terrain or big, open meadows with no steep terrain above, adjacent, or connected to where you're traveling. In other words.... simply stay off of and out from under steep, wind drifted slopes.
Low
Moderate
Considerable
High
Extreme
Learn how to read the forecast here
Special Announcements
On Saturday, a 49 year old Jason Lyman was killed in an avalanche accident on the west side of Humpy Peak in the East Fork of the Chalk Creek drainage while riding with a friend and his son. We visited the site yesterday and posted a preliminary investigation which is found here.
In addition, 41 year old Brad Stapley of St. George was caught and killed in an avalanche east of Beaver, UT near Circleville Mountain on Friday. More details to the tragic accident are found here.
Of course the collective thoughts, prayers, and energy of the UAC go to the friends and family of these men.
Weather and Snow
Last nights quick hitting cold front slammed into the region right around dinnertime. It was a North Slope-centric storm delivering 7" of light density snow from Trial Lake northward with snow totals closer to 4" on the south half of the range. In it's wake, skies are partly cloudy and a light snow shower lingers over the region. Temperatures hover right around zero and with west and northwest winds blowing in the teens and low 20's, windchill values register right around -20 degrees..... ouch. You'll find excellent riding conditions on low angle, low elevation wind sheltered terrain, especially on slopes facing the south half of the compass.
Above is hourly data from Trial Lake (9,945') and Windy Peak (10,662'). To view more regional weather stations click here.
Recent Avalanches
No mystery here, the Uinta's are sketchy! Multiple recent close calls reported across the range the past few days... including a very tragic avalanche accident Saturday.
A close call in Mill Hollow on Saturday as a snow biker was buried as he triggered this steep slope above the summer road. Lucky his hand was sticking out of the snow and everyone in the group was prepared for their own self rescue, quickly digging their partner out of the snow. This story has a happy ending. A first hand account with poignant take home points found here.
Above, a few images from Saturday's tragic avalanche accident in Chalk Creek. Triggered while the sledder was low on the slope, this slide broke deep and wide, taking out the entire seasons snowpack, snapping timber as it crashed down onto the slope below.
And lastly, the slide in the image above was triggered in Upper Weber Canyon yesterday with a little bit of prodding. This tree snapping slab, broke deep and wide, stacking up a huge pile of bone crushing debris.
Recent trip reports and avy activity found HERE.
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Avalanche Problem #1
Persistent Weak Layer
Type
Location
Likelihood
Size
Description
We spent a good portion of yesterday morning investigating Saturday's tragic avalanche accident in Chalk Creek. The take home point regarding snowpack structure and stability is this... our persistent weakness now buried deep in the snowpack isn't healing anytime soon. As a matter of fact, this is the type of structure that is particularly dangerous because we don't even have to be on a steep slope in order to trigger a slide... we just need to be connected to it. Now here's yet another wild card and a big unknown that I'll throw out at you... we've got great coverage, the range is white, and the snowpack is gonna feel really strong and supportable. As a matter of fact, we can ride some slopes without incident, thinking we're good to go, but roll up to steep, wind drifted terrain that didn't slide during last weeks big storm and now we're staring down the barrel of a dangerous avalanche.
But, here's what I do know and make no mistake... this is the real deal and not the type of avalanche problem that we want to tangle with or try to outsmart. Today's avalanches could still potentially be triggered mid slope, low on the slope, or from a distance. Once initiated, they'll break deep and wide and could take out the entire seasons snowpack in some locations, resulting in a potentially unsurvivable slide. That's too much uncertainty for me to deal with so I'm keeping it simple... patience and avoidance are the only solution. I'm simply gonna ride low angle terrain in the sun and avoid being on or under steep, wind drifted slopes.
Avalanche Problem #2
Wind Drifted Snow
Type
Location
Likelihood
Size
Description
Let's face it.... we've had lots of snow recently and there's no shortage of fresh snow to blow around. For days, southerly winds cranked, drifting snow into obvious terrain, but also forming slabs at lower elevations, which is unusual for us. So for today, I suspect we're dealing with several layers of wind drifted snow and these thick layers involve several storms, are more connected, and may break deeper than we might anticipate. While most prevalent on the leeward side of mid and upper elevation ridges, drifting also occurred around terrain features like chutes, gullies, and sub-ridges. In addition, yesterday mornings winds cranked even down low near the trailheads, so expect to find fresh drifts in unusually low elevation terrain. In any case, today you'll want to look for and avoid any fat, rounded piece of snow, especially if it sounds hollow like a drum.
Weston D was in Smith-Moorehouse yesterday and found sensitive wind drifts developing late in the day. Remember- shooting cracks like in the image above are huge clues to unstable snow.
Additional Information
Snow tapers off this morning and we should see partly cloudy skies by late morning. West and northwest winds blow in the 20's and 30's along the high peaks. Temperatures rise into the teens and dip into the single digits overnight. A break in the action for Tuesday and then another wave slides through the region midweek. This storm looks warm and wet and should impact the region Wednesday and Thursday.
General Announcements
The information in this advisory expires 24 hours after the date and time posted, but will be updated by 7:00 AM Tuesday February 12th, 2019.
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 craig@utahavalanchecenter.org 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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