Forecast for the Uintas Area Mountains

Issued by Craig Gordon for Sunday, March 13, 2022
Deceptively dangerous avalanche conditions exist for this time of year, especially on slopes facing the north half of the compass. Here's the catch... sunny skies, fresh snow, and outstanding late season riding lure us into thinking conditions are safer than they are and we're good to go. The snowpack isn't sharing our same emotions.
CONSIDERABLE avalanche danger exists today. Dangerously deep, human triggered avalanches are likely on all slopes (even well below treeline) facing NW, N, NE, and E, especially those with recent deposits of wind drifted snow. Any avalanche that breaks to old snow has the potential to deliver a devastating curve ball to your day.
Slopes facing west and south near and above treeline generally do not have a weak layer of facets, but with so much new snow, avalanches on theses slopes remain possible and the danger is MODERATE.
Looking for LOW avalanche danger? Well, then you've got plenty of options. Simply steer towards mid and lower elevation sunny slopes or choose a big, open meadow with no steep slopes above or adjacent to where you're riding.
Learn how to read the forecast here
Special Avalanche Bulletin
The Utah Avalanche Center continues a SPECIAL AVALANCHE BULLETIN for Sunday, March 13, 2022. We are very worried that a serious avalanche accident could occur this weekend. A CONSIDERABLE avalanche danger exists across northern and central Utah -THIS IS WHEN WE SEE THE MOST ACCIDENTS AND FATALITIES.
DANGEROUS AVALANCHE CONDITIONS combined with great powder and beautiful weather make accidents likely. There have been many close calls this week, but luck eventually runs out. We commonly see a string of close calls leading up to serious accidents.
Two key messages:
Ensure everyone wears and knows how to use an avalanche beacon, shovel, and probe.
Avoid being on, near or under all steep slopes and avalanche terrain. There is great riding and great powder on slopes less than 30 degrees in steepness where avalanches generally don’t occur.
Weather and Snow
Ouch... somebody stole my hour, but they're replacing it with a shot of snow later today... so I'll take one for the team :) In the meantime, skies are clear, temperatures register in the low to mid 20's, and southwest winds hum along to 40 mph near the high peaks. Yesterday's strong sunshine baked the sunny slopes, but cold, dry powder is still found on mid and upper elevation north facing terrain where riding conditions are outstanding on low angle slopes.
Look for increasing clouds and gusty southwest winds developing later this morning, as a quick hitting shot of snow slides through the region, delivering 3"-6" by days end. High temperatures climb into the low 30's with overnight lows dipping into the teens.
Short-lived high pressure is on tap for Monday with another fast moving system expected to move through late Tuesday into Wednesday.
Trip reports and snowpack observations are found HERE.

Looking for real-time temps, snow, or wind? Click HERE and then on the "western Uinta" tab for western Uinta specific, weather station network.
Recent Avalanches
The image above illustrates the fine line between having a great day or one that can go sideways in a hurry. A very close yesterday near Humpy Peak yesterday leaves one rider and his sled buried and wrapped around a tree with a portion of his airbag showing. We are sifting through deets and will have more info posted for tomorrows forecast update.
No shortage of both natural and human triggered avalanches reported Saturday-

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Avalanche Problem #1
Persistent Weak Layer
"I can’t remember a time that I’ve seen more red flags in one ride. We observed widespread cracking and collapsing. Avalanches were easily triggered on any test slope steeper than 30 degrees."
Snowpro, avy educator extraordinaire,Wasatch SAR member, pro sledder, and all around great guy Tyler St. Jeor states it best in his comment from yesterday.
Here's the deal-
A persistent weak layer or what we call near surface faceted snow (NSF) is now buried two feet deep, blanketed by this weeks storm snow. The problem is... we've got an unusual, late season, strong snow on top of weak snow setup. And the weak layer is easily failing under our additional weight and will produce deep, dangerous avalanches today. Think of the NSF like a layer of dominoes with stronger snow resting on top. When your skis or track tip the first domino, it sets off a chain reaction in which all the dominoes (aka the weak layer) collapse, pulling the rug out from underneath, and the entire roof crashes down on us! Here's where it gets tricky... we don't even need to be on a steep slope, just near or connected to it (at the top, bottom, or to the side). Tip one of the dominoes over and now we're staring down the barrel of a scary avalanche!
What makes this situation tricky?
  1. We don't normally deal with long lasting avalanche problems like this, lingering deep into the winter. Today's avalanches act more like early and mid season slides that break on sugary snow near the ground except in this case avalanches will break in the middle of the snowpack. Avalanches may also break in areas below treeline where we don't often expect to see as many slides.
  2. You can trigger deep, dangerous avalanches by simply being near a steep slope but not necessarily on it.
  3. This weak layer is found on many slopes but not all, especially in the wind zone, where distribution is spotty and that make stability patterns tricky to get a handle on. So... you might find weak snow on one part of a slope but not the other. This means you may see people ride a slope and not trigger a slide, but the second or third person on that same slope may be the one to trigger and avalanche.
What to do? There are two options. Ride southerly facing slopes that don't have this weak layer, but the problem is they have a much thinner snowpack. Terrain facing the north half of the compass offers a deeper snowpack and cold powder, but likely have this weak layer and are unstable. In those areas, simply ride slopes less than 30 degrees in steepness with nothing steeper above you (avalanches don't happen on slopes less than 30 degrees but it takes training and practice to identify those with your eyes; otherwise, you have to measure them with an slope measuring app).
Notice the layer of granular, weak, sugary faceted snow in the photo below.
Avalanche Problem #2
Wind Drifted Snow
Variable winds coupled with a few inches of fresh snow form shallow drifts by late in the day. Found mostly on leeward slopes in the wind zone above treeline, also be on the look out for fresh drifts that form around terrain features like chutes and gullies. Lose the wind and you lose the problem.
Additional Information
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General Announcements
The information in this forecast expires 24 hours after the day and time posted, but will be updated by 07:00 Monday, March 14th.
Before it gets too crazy, now is the time to book an avalanche awareness presentation for your group, club, or posse. You can reach me directly at 801-231-2170 or [email protected]
This forecast is from the U.S.D.A. Forest Service, which is solely responsible for its content. This forecast describes general avalanche conditions and local variations always occur.