Forecast for the Uintas Area Mountains

Issued by Craig Gordon for Saturday, February 9, 2019 - 3:11am
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.
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.
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Special Announcements
Sad news to report-
41 year old Brad Stapley of St. George was caught and killed in an avalanche east of Beaver, UT near Circleville Mountain. 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 Mr. Stapely.
Weather and Snow
Skies are clear and temperatures in the single digits. Southerly winds bumped up around 10:00 Friday morning and have blown consistently in the 30's and 40's, gusting into the 50's along the high peaks. Last weeks onslaught of snow, water, and wind transformed the region into a white, winter, wonderland and excellent riding conditions are found particularly on sunny, low angle, lower elevation slopes, where you'll find soft, spongy, surfy snow.... with a little alliteration to boot :)
Above is hourly data from Trial Lake (9,945') and Windy Peak (10,662'). To view more regional weather stations click here.
Recent Avalanches
Multiple slides reported across the range once viz become more reasonable yesterday.
Two large recent avalanches in Upper Chalk Creek were spotted yesterday. Mostly likely triggered with a cornice fall sometime Thursday night, these are huge pieces of tree snapping snow, taking out the entire seasons snowpack.
In addition, this slide above occurred Thursday in Smith-Moorehouse where Weston D reports.... "Today was one of those days where we realized how lucky we got. While we were very aware of what was overhead, we didn't think we were in danger. This ripped out about 1/2 hr-45 min after we skinned by it. This slide covered our skin track. It would not have buried us, but it would have for sure knocked us over or roughed us up in passing. Sobering."
Recent trip reports and avy activity found HERE.
Avalanche Problem #1
Persistent Weak Layer
Nothing has changed on this front since midweek and today's avalanche dragon still has a dangerously subtle personality. 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 during last weeks big storm 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... 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.
JG offers a beautifully detailed snowpit profile whilst offering 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."
I took a look a large connected pocket that occurred sometime Tuesday as the winds were cranking and snow continued stacking up. A quick crown profile reveals the New Years wind slabs/facet combo is still alive and well, reacting to every significant storm since the turn of the New Year.
Sidenote- no roll of the dice here.... I was able to safely navigate my way down the adjacent slope (lookers left) because it's more gentle in slope angle, has more of a southerly component to it's aspect, and no weak snow near the ground.
Avalanche Problem #2
Wind Drifted Snow
Yesterday, southerly winds started cranking and continued through the night. There's no shortage of fresh snow to blow around and I suspect todays wind slabs are thicker and more widespread than you might expect. In addition, I think todays drifts 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, towards days end yesterday, 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.
This cornice initiated avalanche, released a deep wind drift once it crashed down on the slope below. Today you'll want to look around for clues to unstable snow and key into Red Flag conditions as the weather changes. And remember- the biggest clue to avalanches... is other avalanches!
Additional Information
A quick moving and rather weak storm moves through the area today. Look for increasing clouds with temperatures rising into the mid 20's. Southwest winds increase as well, blowing in the 50's along the high peaks by days end. Light snow develops late this afternoon and continues through midnight, tapering off early Sunday morning... winds rerlax as well. Looks like 2"-4" out of this system which then sets the stage for a stronger storm slated to impact the region Sunday night and Monday. Stronger winds and bigger snow accumulations are likely with this storm.
General Announcements
The information in this advisory expires 24 hours after the date and time posted, but will be updated by 7:00 AM Sunday February 10th, 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 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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