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

Tuesday, December 24, 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, December 24, 2002, and itís 7:30 in the morning.


Current Conditions:

Itís the day before Christmas, and all through the week,

Slides crashed down everywhere, with all looking bleak.


Well, I would like to do our traditional day-before-Christmas poem, but the current conditions are too complicated and scary to describe with prose much less verse, so Iíll spare you the pain this year.


It was a cold day yesterday with ridge top temperatures 5-10 degrees and itís about the same temperature this morning.Yesterday morning some strong winds blew from the east 25-30, gusting to near 40, which created yet more wind damage and wind slabs above tree line, making the snow punchy, tricky and avalanche-prone.The sun and wind sheltered slopes continue to be nice powder and thereís a bit of a sun crust on slopes facing the south half of the compass.


Avalanche Conditions:

We keep wanting to drop the danger down to moderate from considerable, but every day, thereís clear evidence that the snowpack is taking its sweet time to stabilize.It took a month to form this astoundingly weak layer, so we canít be too impatient.Since the storm, a week ago there have been at least 25-30 unintentional human triggered avalanches in the backcountry--which we know of.This is the first day in a week that we havenít heard about a human triggered avalanche.But, alas, yesterday, a natural avalanche occurred in the backcountry adjacent to Snowbasin Ė a 4-5 feet deep hard slab that ran full path.Also, yesterday traveling around, myself and many others still feel these giant booming collapses of the snowpack in large areas that shake the trees.The columns in our snowpits continue to be difficult to isolate or fail with wimpy little wrist-taps.Plus thereís the pucker factor.All the old pros in the Wasatch continue to refuse to jump into a steep, shady slope that didnít slide in this latest avalanche cycle.In my book, all of this continues to add up to considerably scary.


Itís not scary everywhere.Most of the slopes which face the south half of the compass are fairly stable, with the exception of recent wind drifts.However, any slope that faces the north half of the compass, plus on east facing slopes, you just need to continue to carefully watch your slope angles.Stay off of and out from underneath any slope approaching 35 degrees or steeper.These are tricky conditions where remotely triggered avalanches are common, ski cuts next to explosive craters continue to pull out avalanches, and weíre beginning to see repeat avalanches on slopes that have slid this past week.If youíre not scared by any of that, then you have a promising career ahead of you on the rodeo circuit.



Bottom Line (SLC, Park City, Ogden and Provo Area Mountains):

The avalanche danger is CONSIDERABLE today on any slope facing the north half of the compass, and on east facing slopes, approaching 35 degrees or steeper, and also on any slope with recent wind drifts.On southerly facing slopes and slopes less than about 30 degrees, avalanche danger is generally LOW.


Mountain Weather:

Today should be another day kind of like yesterday with scattered high clouds and cold temperatures.Ridge top winds should remain light from the west and south.Ridge top temperatures should be around 5 degrees today with 8,000í temperatures in the 20ís with overnight lows in the teens.Christmas Day should be mostly cloudy with moisture coming over the top of a weak ridge with continued cold temperatures.We may get a few light snow showers on Thursday and then it looks like a stronger storm for the weekend.


General Information:

Today the Wasatch Powderbird Guides will take one trip into Grizzly with an avalanche class, and they will also be doing some reconnaissance of avalanche stability probably in Cardiff, White Pine and American Fork.


The Friends of the Utah Avalanche Center will offer an intensive 3-day avalanche class January 18-20.You can sign up at the Black Diamond Retail Store or call them at 801-278-0233.


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


Ethan Greene will update this advisory by 7:30 on Christmas morning.


Thanks for calling!



National Weather Service - Salt Lake City - Snow.

For an explanation of avalanche danger ratings: