Forecast for the Uintas Area Mountains

Issued by Craig Gordon for Thursday, February 7, 2019 - 3:12am
DECEPTIVELY DANGEROUS AVALANCHE CONDITIONS EXIST ON THE EASTERN FRONT-
In the wind zone, at and above treeline, the avalanche danger is HIGH. Human triggered avalanches are LIKELY on 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.
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.
It's eerie 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
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Avalanche Warning
THE FOREST SERVICE UTAH AVALANCHE CENTER IN SALT LAKE CITY HAS CONTINUED A BACKCOUNTRY AVALANCHE WARNING.
* TIMING...THROUGH 6 AM FRIDAY
* AFFECTED AREA...THE WESTERN UINTA MOUNTAINS AND THE MANTI SKYLINE.
* AVALANCHE DANGER...THE AVALANCHE DANGER IS HIGH TODAY.
* REASON/IMPACTS...RECENT HEAVY SNOW AND STRONG WINDS HAVE CREATED WIDESPREAD AREAS OF UNSTABLE SNOW AT MID AND UPPER ELEVATIONS. DANGEROUSLY LARGE, HUMAN TRIGGERED AVALANCHES ARE LIKELY. STAY OFF OF AND OUT FROM UNDER SLOPES STEEPER THAN 30 DEGREES. TRAVELING IN AVALANCHE TERRAIN IS NOT RECOMMENDED.
Weather and Snow
High clouds drifting through the region this morning are producing a light snow shower or two, capping off storm totals which close in on the 30" mark with just about 2.5" of water. Late yesterday, cold air filtered into our zone and temperatures crashed like a bad stock option. Currently, it's a diesel gelling -5 degrees on the ridges and with westerly winds blowing 20-30 mph, wind chill values register close to -30 degrees. Get out of the wind and into the sun today and head to low angle, lower elevation slopes, where riding and turning conditions are excellent.
Above is hourly data from Trial Lake (9,945') and Windy Peak (10,662'). To view more regional weather stations click here.
Recent Avalanches
Images above are from Tuesday when Dave and Bill were in Upper Weber Canyon and triggered this large pocket from a distance that broke 2'-4' deep, failing on weak snow in the midpack and then breaking to the dirt.
Recent trip reports and avy activity found HERE.
Ad
Avalanche Problem #1
Persistent Weak Layer
Type
Location
Likelihood
Size
Description
Today's avalanche dragon has a dangerously subtle personality. And no, it's not like the loud obnoxious guy at the office party who's terribly obvious or in your face... and that's what concerns me most about our current setup. Problem is... I don't think you'll see big, deep crowns or much evidence of a widespread avalanche cycle. As a matter of fact, I think many slopes avalanched during the big storm and then got filled back in by wind and snow, making it difficult to determine which slopes slid and which remain intact just waiting for us to come along and knock the legs out from underneath. So we're essentially missing one of the biggest clues to avalanches... and that's avalanches!
It's gonna be tricky because 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 and now we're staring down the barrel of a dangerous avalanche. However, 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, and avoidance is the only solution. I'm simply gonna ride low angle terrain in the sun and avoid being on or under steep, wind drifted slopes.
JG offers some sage advice.... "Patience is your best friend right now. Play the slope angle game and stay out of the wind zone. Low angle terrain out of the wind zone offers great riding right now even with the amount of new snow we've received." He goes on to say.... "If you're traveling in the wind zone on the north half of the compass the danger is high and you should expect avalanches." More on JG's travels in the Hoyt Peak area found here.
Here's your exit strategy-
Invoke your inner Marley and head over to Trenchtown (Rock :).... you can still get after it and avoid the avalanche dragon today in big open meadows with no steep terrain above or adjacent to where you're riding.
Avalanche Problem #2
Wind Drifted Snow
Type
Location
Likelihood
Size
Description
Even from the trailheads you can see winds have been cranking.
You know wind was invented in the Uintas and for days now, strong southerly winds have been nuking, penetrating all elevations, forming fresh drifts on just about every aspect of the compass. 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, 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.
Remember... shooting cracks around or out in front of your skis, board, or sled is a sign of unstable snow and a huge red flag.
Additional Information
A few scattered snow showers hover over the region this morning, but generally we're drying out and should see clearing skies throughout the day. High temperatures barely crack into the single digits and overnight lows crater well below zero. Northwesterly winds blow in the 20's and 30's along the high ridges. Partly cloudy skies are on tap for Friday and Saturday with a weak system sliding through our area on Sunday.
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 February 8th, 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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