Forecast for the Uintas Area Mountains

Issued by Craig Gordon for Saturday, March 19, 2022
Don't get lulled into a false sense of security with a MODERATE avalanche danger because that means human triggered avalanches are still POSSIBLE. And though there is some variability in exactly where you could trigger an avalanche today the most likely slopes are those near and above treeline facing NW-N-NE-E.
Slopes facing the south half of the compass offer LOW avalanche danger and human triggered avalanches are unlikely.

Scroll to the bottom for a note on slope angle and how to have a blast without entering avalanche terrain.
Low
Moderate
Considerable
High
Extreme
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Weather and Snow
NOWCAST-
A band of high clouds drift into the region as a big, bright, beautiful Crow Moon sets, casting a muted light on our mountains early morning. Temperatures cooled overnight and currently register in the teens and low 20's. Winds are light and westerly, blowing just 10-15 mph even along the high peaks. Riding and turning conditions remain quite good, but soft snow is becoming more elusive. If you've only got one day to ride this weekend, maybe choose Sunday when you'll be greeted with a fresh coat of white paint.
FORECAST-
The warm before the storm. Look for increasing clouds, temperatures soaring into the 40's, and southwest winds ramping into the 30's and 40's by days end.
FUTURECAST-
The storm settles in for a quick visit on Sunday, but sticks around long enough to deliver colder temperatures and snow totals in the 4"-8" range.
As for snow conditions- you've gotta be on your game this time of the year as the sun is high in the sky and it has baked all but the most northerly facing slopes in the alpine. But don't let your soft snow heart be troubled, there are large swaths of shallow, cold snow... just don't stray too far off aspect or you'll be dealing with varying degrees of breakable crust.
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
Most avalanche activity occurred last weekend (links to some of those slides below). The tail end of this week has been quiet and that is a function fewer people (aka triggers) as well as a slight decrease in sensitivity of the buried persistent weak layer.

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Avalanche Problem #1
Persistent Weak Layer
Type
Location
Likelihood
Size
Description
The image above illustrates our problem, a persistent weak layer (PWL) buried underneath about 2 feet of snow. It's a stronger snow on weaker snow combo and that setup is causing the increase in avalanche activity. And while recent warm weather is helping our new problem child adjust, gain a little strength, and become happy in its own skin, it hasn't gone away. What this means is that the likelihood of triggering an avalanche on this layer has decreased somewhat, but we know the safest approach is to assume the PWL layer remains guilty until proven otherwise.
Where does this weak layer exists? The bullseye locations are basically all slopes with dry powder near and slightly below treeline today. Above treeline, the PWL is not as uniform and a little more pockety in distribution. The scary part about this situation is that this layer and it's ability to produce avalanches is variable.
How to avoid it? There are two options. (1) Ride south facing slopes where this layer doesn't exist but the riding conditions are variable. Or, (2) ride northerly facing slopes with dry powder but avoid being on or under any slope steeper than 30 degrees.
Ted and I were grabbed the video below, recapping the snow structure from our field day in upper Chalk Creek Thursday.
Additional Information
The current avalanche situation is tricky and unusual for this time of year:
Even though snow conditions can change rapidly in the spring (ie - powder one day to wet or crusty snow the next), what makes the current situation unusual is that avalanche conditions are not changing quickly.
  1. "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 last Saturday.
  2. "We were fooled by old tracks and a lack of signs of instability" (which is the nature of avalanches that fracture on persistent weak layers of facets.) Family involved in Saturday's close call near Humpy Peak.
  3. I'm still thinking through the incident and lessons to share but 2 critical errors that stand out to me are: I thought that I could manage the terrain to avoid the avalanche problem. I thought that the most likely place to trigger the avalanche would be high up on the slope and close to the ridge in one of the primary start zones. Snowpro and avy educator with a solid snow sense and impressive acumen, my friend and colleague Bo Torrey reflects on yesterday's avalanche in Upper Weber Canyon.

AVALANCHE TERRAIN:
Slope angle determines where avalanches can happen and where they can't. Generally, any slope steeper than 30 degrees is where avalanches occur. This means all you need to do is ride slopes less than 30 degrees in steepness and you'll never have to deal with avalanches.
There's a catch! You can't be underneath slopes steeper than 30 degrees either, even if you're on a flat slope, because avalanches can crash down on you. It turns out that skiing or riding slopes about 25 degrees in steepness is really fun and even more fun because there's no worry of avalanches. Unfortunately, it takes a lot of practice to estimate slope angles with your eyes alone. The way to get practice and the only way to know for sure is to measure slope angles with slope measuring tool shown in the photo below, and Toby describes it in this video. There are also many apps so that you can use your phone in a similar manner.

Your observations are important, so please let me know what you're seeing... click HERE and contribute to this amazing community based program
General Announcements
The information in this forecast expires 24 hours after the day and time posted, but will be updated by 07:00 Sunday, March 20th.
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.