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

Thursday, January 09, 2003

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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 Thursday, January 09, 2003, and it’s 7:30 in the morning.


Current Conditions: 

The January thaw is over.  Ridge top temperatures are 10 degrees cooler than yesterday morning, with most stations reading in the mid 20’s this morning.  The westerly winds are light, less than 15 mph, except across the highest peaks where they are in the 20 mph range.  Some areas of soft, recrystalized powder exist on sheltered shady slopes at the mid and upper elevations, surrounded by a sea of wind and sun damaged snow.  There are a few reports of decent turns on supportable crusts as they softened.


Avalanche Conditions:

Since significant snowfall ended on Dec 31st, 38 remotely or unintentionally human triggered slides have been reported from the backcountry.  Activity has tapered from a high of 13 slides on January 1st, to no reported activity from yesterday.  Almost all the recent activity has been on northwest, north, northeast and easterly facing slopes that are steeper than 35 degrees and above 9,000’ (Ogden areas mountains - 8,000’).


No mater how unstable the snow pack is, at some point the slabs start to strengthen and/or the facets slowly adjust to the weight on them.  But while the places where a person could trigger a slide are slowly decreasing, the consequences of getting caught in a slide remain just as dangerous – meaning potentially fatal.  Over time, the slides have not been getting any smaller, just harder to trigger.  The strengthening slabs may let you get far out onto the slope before releasing well above you.  Or the slabs may hold in place for the first skiers or riders, and then be released by a later person who hits a more sensitive trigger point or the steepest point of the slope.


These current complex conditions make it very difficult to assess and evaluate the stability for a specific, individual slope.  The very experienced backcountry travelers and avalanche professionals are in agreement that the steep, shady slopes are not the places to ski or board.  You just do not want to be caught in one of these ugly slides.  There are decent turning conditions on shady, low and moderate angle slopes in the weakening surface snow, and ridges are also a great way to cruise around in the backcountry.


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

In general the avalanche danger is MODERATE on slopes facing northwest, north, northeast and east, above about 8,500’ and about 35 degrees or steeper.  However, within this terrain, there are pockets of CONSIDERABLE avalanche danger, where human triggered avalanches are probable, especially on slopes that have not slid recently.  This means that you should probably stay off of slopes like these since stability evaluation is difficult.  LOW avalanche danger exists on slopes less steep than 30 degrees, which are not connected to steeper slopes above and on the southerly facing slopes. 


Western Uintas – call 1-800-648-7433


Mountain Weather:

The high pressure over us will continue to weaken today as a minor disturbance approaches. Cooler temperatures today, with highs in the mid 20’s at 10,000’ and in the mid to upper 30’s at 8,000’.  The winds will be from the west to southwest, less than 15 mph, except along the highest ridges where they will be in the 15 to 25 mph range.  Increasing clouds this afternoon, with light snow starting after midnight.  A couple of inches of new snow are possible by morning.  Tonight, there will be moderate southwesterly winds, with temperatures dropping into the low 20’s.  The snow showers will continue through Saturday morning.  The large scale pattern has a ridge over Utah for the next 10 days, with no big storms in sight.  Some weak disturbance may break through at times.


General Information:

Wasatch Powderbird Guides will not be flying clients today.


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.


Tom Kimbrough will update this advisory by 7:30 on Friday morning.


Thanks for calling!




National Weather Service - Salt Lake City - Snow.

For an explanation of avalanche danger ratings: