Wasatch Cache National Forest

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Avalanche advisory

wednesday, April 3, 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 Wednesday, April 3, 2002, and its 7:30 a.m.


Current Conditions:

A cool, dry front moved through northern Utah yesterday. This morning, the air mass is thermally stratified, with the coolest air pooled in the mountains valleys. Temperatures are in the mid 20s at 7 and 8,000 feet, warm to near 30 at 9,000, and then cool once again into the upper 20s above about 10,000. Winds are from the west to northwest, averaging near 30 across the highest peaks, and less than 15 mph below the upper ridges.


The cooler temperatures combined with clear overnight skies will give the sunny slopes a short window of supportable corn crusts this morning, which are thickest below about 10,000. But start early, as the crusts will become breakable by about 10 am. To help you with those alpine starts, we will be doing an early morning corn report on the (801) 364-1581 line by 6:00 am for the rest of the season. Also, a few patches of soft snow remain on very shady, upper elevation slopes.


Avalanche Conditions:

Our spring snow pack is undergoing a typical melt-freeze cycle, which is unfortunately a bit heavy on the melt side of things. The overnight refreezes of the surface snow are generally shallow, and it is taking only a few hours of sun and heating for the crusts to become breakable, followed by a rapid transition to wet slush. Once this happens, the strength of the surface snow is gone, and its time to change aspect or go home. Yesterday, a backcountry traveler near Brighton was on a steep east facing slope way too late in the day and triggered a loose wet snow slide at about 12:45. While only about 100 wide, the debris really piled up, over 7 feet deep in places. A thorough search was required to determine that no one was buried in the slide.


So early starts and early finishes are the guidelines for spring travel on sunny slopes. Remember, snow heats up fastest on steeper slopes and around rocks. If youre out for a full day, work the terrain to stay on the aspects and elevations that are cooler.


In addition to wet snow sluffs, there are isolated locations and times when you could trigger a corn slab just as the crusts are heat up. Several were reported last week, averaging a foot deep. If you can push your ski pole through a relatively thin melt-freeze crust, or if you hear and feel collapsing in the snow, head to a different slope.

Anther concern is the potential for glide avalanches on steep slopes underlain by rock slabs. Glide cracks have been observed on some of this type of terrain. There also remains an isolated chance of triggering an avalanche that could fail on a deeper weak layer, especially on steep shady slopes and in thin snow pack areas.


Bottom Line:

On sunny slopes, the avalanche danger is generally LOW early this morning but will rise to MODERATE by midmorning with heating. There is also a MODERATE danger of triggering a deep dangerous hard slab avalanche in steep terrain, especially in thinner snowpack areas.


(Ogden Area and Western Uinta Mountains)

Same as Salt Lake Mountains.


(Provo Area Mountains)

Same as Salt Lake Mountains.


Mountain Weather:

Another hot, sunny day is in store for the northern Utah mountains. Temperatures will once again rapidly warm today, rising into the low 30s at 10,000 and to near 50 at 8,000. The west northwesterly winds will average 25 to 30 mph across the highest peaks, but once you get off these uppermost ridges, speeds should be less than 15 mph. Clear tonight, with 8,000 lows near 30. Warmer on Thursday and Friday ahead of a weak cold front that should arrive Saturday morning, bringing much cooler temperatures for the weekend.


General Information:

Wasatch Powderbird Guides will fly a few runs in American Fork today. 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. We have a new avalanche and backcountry observation page that wed like to encourage folks to try out. It can be found on our home website at avalanche.org. You can also fax an observation to 801-524-6301.


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 Thursday 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: