Wasatch Cache National Forest

In partnership with: The Friends of the Utah Avalanche Forecast Center, Utah Department of Public Safety Division of Comprehensive Emergency Management, Salt Lake County, and Utah State Parks


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Avalanche advisory

Monday, November 12, 2002


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Good morning, this is Bruce Tremper with the Forest Service Utah Avalanche Center with your backcountry avalanche and mountain weather advisory.Today is Tuesday, November 12, 2002 and itís about 7:30 am.


We wonít have all our phone lines hooked up for a couple more days, so you may find it easier to access this advisory on the internet.


Current Conditions:

With clear skies overnight, temperatures are in the mid teens with light ridgetop winds from the west.Most upper elevation areas in the Wasatch Range have a couple feet of snow from last weekendís storm, which sits directly on rocks on the south facing slopes and on top of old, October snow on the shady aspects.With the top foot of snow being light density, free riding conditions were quite good yesterday as long as you donít mind occasionally hitting rocks.


Avalanche Conditions:

Yesterday was the fourth very scary day in a row.In the past few days, by my count, there have been at least 12 unintentional human triggered avalanches in the backcountry with at least four people caught and at least one injury.Luckily there have been no deaths.Yesterday, someone triggered a large slide in Days Fork and when I very carefully tiptoed into Cardiff Fork yesterday it looked like mountain goats triggered a couple more avalanches there.Avalanche control at ski areas yesterday continued to produce large avalanches 2-4 feet deep and 400 feet wide.As the snow slowly settles and stabilizes, the avalanches are becoming harder to trigger, but the ones you do trigger are larger and more dangerous, making them especially tricky.Even experienced ski patrollers were getting surprised yesterday.Many of these slides were breaking after several people had already crossed the slope and sometimes even after triggering a shallower slide in new snow, someone triggered the bed surface and it broke to the ground.You donít see that very often!Taking rides in these early season avalanches are especially nasty because you bounce off of rocks all the way down.In other words, these kinds of avalanches are nothing to mess with.


The problem, of course, is the very weak, sugary depth hoar that was on the ground in October.It existed mostly above 9,000í on northwest through northeast facing slopes but at very high elevations also exists on west and east facing slopes.Therefore if you want to get onto steeper slopes, do it on the south facing slopes where the new snow sits directly on the rocks.Yes, you will hit more rocks, but at least you have a hugely diminished chance of dying or getting beat up in an avalanche.


Finally, today as the sun hits the snow for the first time and temperatures warm this afternoon, there may be a few wet or damp sluffs on steep south facing slopes.




Bottom Line:

The avalanches danger is still CONSIDERABLE today on northeast, north and northwest facing slopes, approaching 35 degrees or steeper, above about 9,000í.Considerable means dangerous human triggered slides are likely. Thereís a MODERATE danger on those same slopes between 30 and 35 degrees.If you want LOW danger terrain, stay on slopes of 30 degrees or less, and stay well out from underneath steep slopes.


Mountain Weather:

With a nice, clear morning, this would be a great day to get out and see all the spectacular avalanches from last weekend.Today, winds should be light from the south with ridgetop temperatures warming up from the lower teens to near freezing later today.On Wednesday expect cloudy skies with a few light snow showers as a weak Pacific storm brushes past Utah.Cloudy again on Thursday with a nice weekend, then perhaps another weak system on about Monday.


General Information:

Tom Kimbrough and I will be teaching a free avalanche awareness class tonight at 7 pm at REI and Thursday, November 14th at 7pm Iíll be giving a talk at the Black Diamond Retail store. For a complete list of evening talks and multi-day classes, visit www.avalanche.org and click on Salt Lake and then Education.


To report backcountry snow and avalanche conditions, especially if you observe or trigger an avalanche, call (801) 524-5304 or 1-800-662-4140.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.


Evelyn Lees will update this advisory by 7:30 on Wednesday morning.


Thanks for calling!



National Weather Service - Salt Lake City - Snow.

For an explanation of avalanche danger ratings: