Observation: Guardsman Pass area

Observation Date
Observer Name
Salt Lake » Big Cottonwood Canyon » Guardsman Pass area
Location Name or Route
Guardsman-Scott's Back Door
Wind Direction
Wind Speed
Weather Comments
Beautiful day. Calm winds with temps hovering right around 36°F. There were signs of rimed snow in the trees. But when you slowed down you could hear the rime melting and the liquid water hitting the snowpack.
Snow Characteristics
Snow Surface Conditions
Snow Characteristics Comments
Snow was a mixed bag of surface hoar in the shady areas and roller balls on the solar aspects as the day went on. North facing slopes were more faceted. I was not punching through as much as I have the previous few days. I observed signs of settlement in the Guardsman Pass area where downed logs were showing their shape under the snowpack. Still a thin snowpack with lots of lightly buried obstacles.
Photo of surface hoar before the sun got it. East facing slope 9600'
Photo of roller balls, south facing slope 9200'
Photo of rime on the trees before the sun started melting it
Red Flags
Red Flags
Recent Avalanches
Rapid Warming
Red Flags Comments
Signs of recent avalanche activity on the north facing side of Scott's Bowl. Thanks to the Park City crew that invited me to join their patrol avalanche class where we looked at some of the avalanches within their boundary that are currently representative of a backcountry snowpack. As they begin setup please be respectful of their terrain to keep you and their workers safe.
Avalanche Problem #1
Persistent Weak Layer
Problem #1 Comments
The PWL is still present and I avoided slopes over 30 ° today. From what I've found there seems to be a PWL on the ground from November associated with some variation of a crust as well as a faceted layer that varies in height but is under the newest snow. This is similar structure to what Trent, Mike,and I found on Twin Lakes Pass on December 3rd with 2 PWL layers and the one at the old/new interface being the most reactive in snow stability tests. The caveat is that both of these locations were lower angle and the steeper terrain has shown us it is capable of producing large avalanches breaking at ground level. See snowpit below showing 3 extended column tests with propagation 14-16" off the ground. In this location the weak layer was decomposing/broken stellar crystals.
Snow Profile
I traveled on slopes less than 30 ° today and avoided avalanche terrain. The PWL that exists is still active and is getting harder to trigger. What this means is that it may entice riders to get further out on the slope before they break to the PWL at the ground layer. Shady aspects are harboring weaker snow and I don't trust it. As Trent said this morning, "Avalanche activity has been nothing short of terrifying and electric. Over the past few days, we've gone through a large natural avalanche cycle throughout the mountains of northern Utah. Control work continues to produce many large and destructive avalanches breaking 2-5 feet deep and up to 1,000 feet wide taking out trees and running into the flats."
Over the next few days it may become more difficult to trigger these avalanches-but they are not something I will be messing with.
Today's Observed Danger Rating
Tomorrows Estimated Danger Rating