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


The Utah Avalanche Center Home page is: http://www.avalanche.org/~uac/


Avalanche advisory

Tuesday, January 07, 2003

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To see a graphic of recent snowpack conditions CLICK HERE, (Updated 1-7-03)


Good Morning.  This is Bruce Tremper with the Forest Service Utah Avalanche Center with your backcountry avalanche and mountain weather advisory.  Today is Tuesday, January 07, 2003, and it’s 7:30 in the morning.


Avalanche Conditions:

Yesterday there were two more unintentional human triggered avalanches in the backcountry and both were very close calls.  First, a lone skier triggered a hard slab avalanche, 2 feet deep and 150 feet wide, off the steep, east-facing, upper ridge line between Cardiac Ridge and Cardiac Bowl in Cardiff Fork of Big Cottonwood Canyon.  The victim rode the slide 800 vertical feet and was buried with their head about four feet deep for under 10 minutes.  Two other parties luckily happened to be in the area, and three people converged on the site with their beacons and quickly located the victim using beacons.  One was Aaron Hughes, a critical care nurse.  The others were Marla Baily and Mark White, both local hardcore backcountry skiers with medical training.  The victim was breathing when they were dug out and Wasatch Powderbird Guides responded, put them on a backboard and then a medical helicopter evacuated them.  Apparently, the victim is doing fine, thanks to the heroic efforts of others.  This was a well tracked-up slope and the victim decided to go a bit higher in the bowl than the other tracks, where he triggered the avalanche.  


The second incident occurred shortly afterwards in nearby Day’s Fork when a skier triggered a steep, north facing slope about 8 turns down.  The slide broke well above them, 2 feet deep and 30 feet wide and they got banged up pretty badly on trees during the 800 foot ride and lost one ski, but he was able to ski out on his own.


By my reckoning, this is by far the most active and longest-lasting avalanche cycle in the 22 year history of the Utah Avalanche Center.  In the past three weeks, we’ve had an incredible 62—count them, 62—unintentional human triggered avalanches in the backcountry, averaging nearly three per day.  This doesn’t even count the intentionally triggered avalanches in the backcountry—for instance, from a slope cut—or the large numbers of avalanches from control work by the resorts, nor the ones we haven’t heard about, which could easily triple these numbers.  To put this in perspective, Utah averages 100 unintentional human triggered avalanches in the backcountry each season and if we keep up this pace, we’ll end up the season with over 400 avalanche incidents.  Incredibly, no one has been killed yet although there have been two complete burials and several serious injuries.  (For a complete list of avalanches, click HERE.  For photos, click HERE.)



If you listened to the science fiction by the television meteorologists on the news last night, you would think these avalanches were caused by warming temperatures, but actually, temperature probably had little to do with it.  It’s just the same old broken record that has been playing for the past three weeks.  A slab of snow a couple feet deep sits on top of an astoundingly weak layer of faceted snow that was formed during the 5-week drought in November and early December.  It still collapses everywhere when you travel across it and it’s taking an incredibly long time to stabilize.  People on the east slopes of the Rockies are used to these conditions, but most people in Utah have never seen it before.  (For a graphic of the snowpack click HERE.)


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

It’s certainly not dangerous everywhere, just in some terrain.  Although we’re slouching towards moderate danger, we feel that the danger remains CONSIDERABLE on slopes facing northwest, north, northeast and east, above about 8,500’ and about 35 degrees or steeper, especially on slopes that have not slid yet this season.  This means that human triggered avalanches are probable and you should probably avoid slopes like this.  There is a MODERATE danger of wet point-release avalanches on steep sun exposed slopes, especially in the heat of the afternoon.  If you want LOW avalanche danger, simply stay on slopes less steep than 30 degrees, which are not connected to steeper slopes above.  Remember that 30 degrees is about the steepness of an intermediate to advanced slope at a ski area and you can have plenty of fun on a slope like that.    


Western Uintas – call 1-800-648-7433


Current Conditions:  It’s getting harder and harder to find good snow.  Most slopes have either a sun crust or are wind drifted and you can still find some soft, dense powder on mid elevation, northerly facing, wind sheltered slopes.


Mountain Weather:

Today should be another warm, sunny day in the mountains.  We’re under a strong temperature inversion and the ridge top temperatures this morning are around freezing with light and variable winds.  Today ridge top high temperatures should be in the mid 30’s with 8,000’ temperatures into the sweltering range—in the mid to upper 40’s.  We will get a few clouds on late Friday and Saturday and again on about Tuesday.  As far as the long range weather, I think we just have to learn to live with the fact that this is shaping up to be a dry, warm winter.  I don’t see any significant snow in the forecast for at least the next 10 or 15 days.


General Information:

Wasatch Powderbird Guides will be flying an avalanche class in Grizzly Gulch and will be flying clients in upper Silver Fork, Day’s Fork and Cardiff Fork and a couple runs in White Pine.


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.


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: