Wasatch Cache National Forest

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Avalanche advisory

saturday, MARCH 16, 2002 07:30 AM



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Good morning, this is Evelyn Lees with the Forest Service Utah Avalanche Center with your backcountry avalanche and mountain weather advisory.  Today is Saturday, March 16, 2002, and it’s 7:30 a.m.


Current Conditions:

Northern Utah is under a cool, moist unstable flow, and very light snow has started to fall in the mountains.  Temperatures are near 15 at 8,000’ and in the single digits at 10,000’.  In low and mid-elevation areas the winds have been calm, but above 10,000’ the winds are averaging 10 to 20 mph from the southeast.


This weeks storm totals were 50”/3.5” in Little Cottonwood, 40”/2.5” in Big Cottonwood, 30”/2.4” along the Park City Ridgeline, 18”/2” in the Ogden Mountains, 10”/0.7”in the Provo Mountains and over 36” in the Western Uintas.  The powder on the shady slopes is sublime, and with several days of settlement there is excellent turning, snowshoeing and riding on low angle slopes.  The sunny slopes got baked yesterday, and will be well crusted this morning.


Avalanche Conditions:

Due to the large size and dangerous nature of recent avalanches, I have continued the Special Avalanche Advisory for the Wasatch range near Salt Lake and Park City and the Provo and Western Uinta Mountains.  In the past 3 days avalanche control programs and backcountry travelers have triggered many large and dangerous avalanches, which are breaking into deep weak layers.


Yesterday, the cycle of deep avalanches breaking on weak facets near the ground continued.  Highway control work released large slides on the northerly facing paths above Big Cottonwood Canyon in the Argenta and north Kessler paths and in Stairs Gulch, which reached the highway.  None of these paths showed any reluctance in releasing, and they already contained significant natural slabs or sluffs.  Deep slides were also released in upper Little Cottonwood on west facing Pasty Marley and southeast facing Tuskarora.  On Thursday a 33 degree slope in Butler Fork collapsed and cracked beneath a backcountry skier, and released an avalanche on an adjacent steep slope. The avalanche was on a northeasterly facing slope, 4 to 6’ deep, over 300 feet wide and broke on facets below the January ice crust. Most of the recent activity has occurred on the shady, northerly facing slopes and the wind loaded east and southeasterly facing slopes. 


In contrast, some fairly steep slopes were skied without incidence yesterday.  The complex stability pattern is very frustrating - a bit like having land mines scattered throughout the backcountry.  While the chance of triggering one of these slides may only be localized, the consequences if you do could easily be fatal.


Snow pits, cornice drops and ski and snowmobile tracks may not be good indications of snowpack stability. To stay safe keep your slope angles down and use your safe travel skills.  Since slides could be triggered remotely, also watch the angle of the slopes above and to the sides of you. 


If the winds do pick up more than expected, fresh drifts of wind blown snow will rapidly form and should be avoided on steep slopes.


Bottom Line: 

The avalanche danger today is CONSIDERABLE on steep slopes in many areas of Salt Lake area mountains, the Provo Mountains and in the Western Uintas.  Very large and dangerous human triggered avalanches are possible.  Lower angle slopes have a generally LOW danger.


(Provo Area Mountains)

In areas of the Provo Area Mountains that received more snow, including the American Fork drainage and upper elevations, the avalanche danger is CONSIDERABLE.   Very large and dangerous human triggered avalanches are possible. 


(Western Uinta Mountains)

The avalanche danger is CONSIDERABLE.  Very large and dangerous human triggered avalanches are possible. 


(Ogden Area Mountains)

The danger is MODERATE.


Mountain Weather:

The skies over northern Utah will be mostly cloudy today, with occasional snow showers and accumulations of a trace to 3”.  Winds will shift to the southwest, and average 10 to 20 mph along the ridges.  Highs will be in the low 20’s at 8,000’ and near 10 at 10,000’.  A weak short wave tonight should produce slightly heavier snow, with additional accumulations of 3 to 6” by morning.  Southwesterly winds will average 15 to 25 mph along the ridges, and lows will be near 10.  The unsettled weather pattern will continue through Tuesday.


General Information:

Wasatch Powderbird Guides will be flying one ship in American Fork and the other in Cardiff and Silver today, with a home run in Grizzly.  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], 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 we’ll 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. 


Ethan Greene will update this advisory by 7:30 on Sunday 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: