Wasatch Cache National Forest

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Avalanche advisory

Wednesday, MARCH 6, 2002 7:30 AM



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Good morning, this is Drew Hardesty with the Forest Service Utah Avalanche Center with your backcountry avalanche and mountain weather advisory. Today is Wednesday, March 6, 2002, and its 7:30 a.m.


Dont miss the Banff Mountain Film Festival at the U of Us Kingsbury Hall on March 12 and 13, at 7pm. Tickets are available at the Kingsbury Hall ticket office, Art-tix, the University of Utahs Outdoor Program (581-8516), and REI (486-2100). Dont miss this great benefit for the Friends of the Utah Avalanche Center!


Current Conditions:

Under mostly cloudy skies, temperatures remained warm in the mountains, rarely dropping below 20 degrees. By around midnight, the winds, already averaging in the teens and twenties, bumped up a notch or two into the 20s and 30s out of the west and southwest, with some gusts around 50. The Ogden crest has seen some hourly averages at 50mph and gusts into the high 70s. Backcountry snow surface conditions are a mix of sun and wind crusts, with good riding and turning conditions in the soft recrystallized powder on the shady slopes.


Avalanche Conditions:

A hard slab avalanche was triggered by a snowmachiner in the Western Uintas yesterday, not far from the fatality from earlier this year. On a 37 degree, northeast facing slope near 10,000, the slide was reported to be 2-3 deep, 100 wide, and ran full track. This was also not far from another snowmachine-triggered hard slab from Saturday a few bowls over that was 2-4 deep and 600 wide. Reports from the Uintas describe things as a house of cards, waiting for a significant load.


In the central Wasatch, as Ethan Greene puts it, the avalanche conditions can best be described as pockety in nature. The instabilities are far from widespread, but its difficult to define a legitimate pattern. Not only are separate slopes quite individual, areas along the same slope are as well on a traverse, you can go from an area of relative strength to a weak spot over a matter of feet. While it does look like most of the recent activity has been on steep, upper elevation north facing slopes along the upper Cottonwood Ridgeline, I feel certain that other booby-traps exist with similar terrain characteristics elsewhere along the range. The trick will be to gauge each area individually, keep your slope angles down, and follow safe travel protocol. One of our observers went to investigate the slide that was triggered near Dromedary Peak on Monday. He reported the fracture line to vary between 12 up to 5! with some of the hard slab debris the size of a refrigerator.


Once the flood gates open, we may be in for some interesting activity. We have some pretty weak surface snow on the shady aspects, patched together with a variety of hard wind and sun crusts. The few inches for tonight may make things tricky for tomorrow, but the Thursday night storm will likely make for a good cycle, with a high likelihood of any activity stepping down to weak layering in the mid-pack.


Bottom Line:

The danger of human triggered avalanches remains MODERATE on mid and upper elevation northwest through east facing slopes steeper than about 35 degrees. Human triggered avalanches are possible. It will still be possible for any avalanche to step down into deeper, faceted snow.


(Provo Area Mountains and Western Uinta Mountains)

These areas have had a thin snowpack most of the winter, and the sugary weak snow is more common than in the Cottonwood Canyons. The danger of human triggered avalanches is more widespread in the Provo and Western Uinta Mountains, especially where wind drifted.


(Ogden Area Mountains)

Same as above.


Mountain Weather:

Today well see mostly cloudy skies and some light showers during the day. Ridgetop winds will be out of the west to southwest in the 30s and possibly into the 40s by late afternoon. 8000 highs will be in the mid to upper 30s with 10,000 temperatures in the mid-twenties. Tonights storm will be on a strong southwest flow, producing 4-7 at favored locations, with light snow again tomorrow. At this time, Thursday nights storm is looking pretty good.


General Information:

The Wasatch Powderbird Guides will probably not be flying today, but if they do get out, will be in the Silver, Days, Cardiff, and Mineral Fork drainages of Big Cottonwood Canyon and in the Porter Fork and Alexander Basin drainages of Mill Creek. For more information call 521-6040 ext. 5280.


To report backcountry snow and avalanche conditions, especially if you observe or trigger an avalanche, you can leave a message at (801) 524-5304 or 1-800-662-4140. Or you can e-mail an observation to [email protected] .org, or you can fax an observation to 801-524-6301.


For more detailed mountain weather and avalanche information, your can call 801-364-1591, which well try to have updated by around noon each day.


The information in this advisory is from the U.S. Forest Service, which is solely responsible for its content. This advisory describes general avalanche conditions and local variations always occur.


Tom Kimbrough will update this advisory by 7:30 tomorrow morning.

Thanks for calling!


For more detailed weather information go to our Mountain Weather Advisory

National Weather Service - Salt Lake City - Snow.

For an explanation of avalanche danger ratings: