Forecast for the Uintas Area Mountains

Issued by Craig Gordon for Wednesday, March 23, 2022
Today you'll find MODERATE avalanche danger and human triggered avalanches are POSSIBLE, but for two very distinct avalanche dragons.
First the manageable... fresh drifts near and above treeline will react to our additional weight and may break a bit deeper and wider than you might expect. Next, the unmanageable... avalanches breaking 2'-3' deep and failing on our persistent weak layer, may be a bit more stubborn to trigger, but they'll pack a powerful punch, especially in terrain near and above treeline on slopes facing NW-N-NE-E.
Slopes facing the south half of the compass at mid and low elevations 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.
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Special Announcements
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Weather and Snow
It's a crisp morning with clear skies and a cool northerly flow which delivers temperatures in the teens and low 20's. For the past 72 hours, north and northwest winds have been busy at work along the high ridges, blowing in the 20's and 30's and continue in that spirit early this morning. There's a myriad of snow surfaces, though with a little hunting, excellent riding conditions on soft powder are still found on mid and upper elevation wind and sun sheltered north facing slopes.
One last day of cool, spring-like weather is on tap and then we're headed for nearly record highs by weeks end as strong high pressure builds overhead. Today, look for mostly sunny skies, a decrease in winds as the day wares on, and high temperatures climbing into the upper 30's. Overnight lows dip into the mid 20's.
The graphic above bodes well for biking, trail running, and taking the Olympic bar outside the gym for a lift... not so much for dry, fresh pow. However, a glimmer of hope shines through by late Sunday as computer models hint at a stormy period developing early next week. More deets to follow as the storm and timing become more clear.
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
Spring happens fast in these parts and of course, the snowpack is keenly aware of these macro and micro changes. Monday was a curiously active day. With a bit of a thump, the snowpack continues producing avalanches that break to our problem child, a persistent weak layer (PWL).... and the slides are packing a punch and piling up a healthy dose of debris.

Your input is vital and we're interested in what you're seeing. Please contribute to this great community resource and go here to fill out an observation.
Avalanche Problem #1
Persistent Weak Layer
Andy and I stomped around the North Slope Monday and the viddy above illustrates our problem child, a persistent weak layer (PWL) now buried and preserved underneath about 2 feet of snow. Of course, the stronger snow on weaker snow combo creates the questionable structure resulting in an increase in avalanche activity, and today's strong sunshine and decreased winds might help to bring the PWL out of its dormancy and back to life. In either case, we know we have a deceptively tricky weak layer, it hasn't gone away, and we're seeing the biggest sign of unstable snow... avalanches! But, it's not like there are slides everywhere and place is coming unglued. However, in addition to recent avalanche activity there are also plenty of other red flags like collapsing and shooting cracks. So the safest approach is to assume the PWL is present on shady slopes and 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.
Avalanche Problem #2
Wind Drifted Snow
Northerly winds blowing for the past 72 hours found enough loose snow to whip into shallow drifts on the leeward side of upper elevation ridges. Not particularly deep, but they might be large enough to knock you off your snow vehicle on a sustained steep, technical slope. You know the drill... look for and avoid any fat, rounded piece of snow, especially if it sounds hollow like a drum. Lose the wind and you lose the problem... simply lose some elevation and you'll avoid getting knocked around by the wind and score some quality riding to boot!
Additional Information
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 Thursday, March 24th.
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.