Forecast for the Uintas Area Mountains

Issued by Craig Gordon for Wednesday, March 9, 2022
HEADS UP... avalanche danger changed overnight, especially for north facing terrain and this is the real deal -
HIGH avalanche danger exists near and above treeline, where recent wind drifts rest on top of a pre-existing, weak layer of sugary snow. Both natural and human triggered slides breaking deeper and wider than you might expect are VERY LIKELY, especially on steep slopes facing the north half of the compass and particularly those with an easterly component to their aspect.
Even lower elevation terrain below treeline offers no shortage of weak, sugary snow where CONSIDERABLE avalanche danger is found and human triggered avalanches are LIKELY on steep, shady slopes near our trailheads.
Shift compass orientation to terrain facing south and you'll find more predictable avalanche conditions involving fresh storm snow. MODERATE avalanche danger is found on sustained steep, southerly slopes and human triggered avalanches are POSSIBLE.

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Avalanche Warning
A powerful winter storm has created very dangerous avalanche conditions in the backcountry. The avalanche danger is HIGH.
In effect from 6 AM MST this morning to 6 AM MST Thursday
For the mountains of Northern Utah, including the Wasatch Range north of I-80, Western Uintas, and the Bear River Range.
Heavy snowfall and blowing snow overloaded slopes with buried persistent weak layers and created widespread areas of unstable snow. Human triggered and natural avalanches are likely. People should avoid travel in avalanche terrain today.
Weather and Snow
Winter returns from its hiatus, and then... it snowed! In fact, overnight snow totals are pretty uniform throughout the range with 5" of snow and .30" H2O near the trailheads and 8" with .50" H2O in the high country. West and southwest winds ramped up overnight, averaging in the 30's with landscape changing gusts near 50 mph along the high ridges. Temperatures hover in the 20's at lower elevations while registering in the teens near the peaks. Riding and turning conditions continue to improve and you can have a blast today on low angle terrain or a big open meadow.
A good shot of snow is on tap for this morning with an additional 3"-6" expected before turning showery after lunch. Expect strong ridgetop winds this morning shifting to the west and northwest and decreasing late in the day. Temperatures don't vary much from where we're at this morning and crater into negative territory overnight.
Lingering snow showers are on tap for Thursday with clear, dry, warm weather on tap to round out the work week.
Trip reports and current state of the 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
We're still sifting through details, but here's what we know about a close call late Monday afternoon near Humpy Peak-
A group of sledders is riding in the Humpy drainage when one snowmobiler triggers a small piece of snow on a steep, north facing slope which catches, carries, and buries him in a terrain trap (small gully). The rider tries to deploy his airbag, though is unable to successfully engage and he's buried with a hand sticking out of the snow. The sledder briefly loses consciousness, but everyone in the group is wearing avalanche rescue gear and they quickly locate the buried rider and dig him out. The group is pretty rattled, but after taking some time to regroup in the Whitney Basin warming hut, they ride back to their rigs and return home safely.. Whew... close call!
More deets found HERE

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Avalanche Problem #1
Persistent Weak Layer
Yesterday, Mark went on the search for Monday's Humpy Peak avalanche and found no shortage of weak snow along the way. Above is an excellent observation describing our dangerous setup.
Make no mistake, this is an unusual snowpack setup for us and we need to pump the brakes and re-evaluate the type of terrain we generally get after in the spring-
Here's what's going on... weak layers of sugary snow developed on the surface of the snowpack during the January/February dryspell. Yes, the livin' was easy and it was great recycled powder or what we call near surface faceted snow (NSF).
Here's the problem... NSF is a weak layer that's now buried and preserved about 12"-18" under the snow surface.
Now here's the bad news... with a strong shot of testosterone, our new problem child is channeling its rowdy teenage years, coming out of its awkward dormancy and back to life. In fact, just looking at the snowpack the wrong way this week sparked it to come unglued and that's when hardly any additional water weight, wind, or new snow was added to this fragile weak layer. And now it's getting a big thump and teetering on the edge. Let's face it, we're not going to outsmart the avalanche dragon, so avoidance is the big ticket item. Simply avoid where it lives and that means steering clear of steep terrain which faces the north half of the compass.
Avalanche Problem #2
Wind Drifted Snow
Above is a 24 hour data dump from Windy Peak (10,661') illustrating an uptick in recent west-southwest winds.
Upper elevation winds have been all over the map and they're having no problem whipping up a fresh round of drifts that'll be reactive to our additional weight today. Here's the curve ball... fresh wind drifts form lower downslope than you might expect, stack up on a variety of old snow surfaces, and some are quite hard and slick. Any avalanche triggered on a sustained steep slope may run further and faster than you might expect.
Avalanche Problem #3
New Snow
New snow at all elevations will react to our additional weight and may stack up more debris that you'd anticipate, especially if its channeled into a terrain trap like a gully.
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 Thursday, March 10th.
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.