Wasatch Cache National Forest

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Avalanche advisory

Saturday, January 18, 2003

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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 Saturday, January 18, 2003, and itís 7:30 in the morning.


Current Conditions:

With a big, fat full moon in a clear sky, both last night and tonight, these are great nights to get out in the mountains and enjoy life.Itís been mighty blustery these past few days, especially Wednesday, with strong winds, mostly from the northwest. This has decorated the above-tree line ridges in a Martian sandblasted decor.Thereís no lack of sun crusts on the slopes that face the south half of the compass.Believe it or not, thereís still lots of nice, soft, dry, recrystalized snow that could pass for Oregon powder on the northerly facing slopes down out of the wind. ††This morning the ridge top winds are blowing around 20 mph from the northwest with ridge top temperatures around 20 degrees.


Avalanche Conditions:

The main avalanche problem today is the surface layers of wind drifted snow.These ďwind slabsĒ, as we call them, tend to be hard and hollow-sounding but they can be soft as well.Like a rattlesnake, they almost always warn you of their presence.Many of them crack under your weight, sound hollow, feel slabby and most are hard and stubborn.They have a smooth, rounded, chalky, wind-drifted appearance and if you find one on a steep slope, they are definitely to be avoided today.Much of the above-tree line terrain is covered with them while others are very pockety.One spot may be perfectly safe while another a few feet away will crack under you and take you for a ride.


The second, and much less serious, problem is our old enemy from throughout this winteróthe deeply buried layers of weak, sugary, faceted snow.These layers have significantly settled and adjusted to their load in most places and itís been nearly a week since any people have triggered an avalanche on this layer.Without any wind slabs on top, I think human-triggered avalanches on the deep layers will be quite rare today, but with a wind slab on top, an avalanche could easily have enough punch to step down into these deeper weak layers, making a much larger and more dangerous avalanche.


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

There is a MODERATE avalanche danger on any steep slope with recent deposits of wind drifted snow. This means that human-triggered avalanches are possible.In terrain without wind drifts, there is generally a LOW danger with localized pockets of MODERATE danger on slopes facing the north half of the compass, plus east facing slopes, above about 8,500í that approach about 40 degrees steepness.


Bottom Line (Western Uinta Mountains):

There is a CONSIDERABLE avalanche danger on steep slopes with recent deposits of wind drifted snow at elevations above timberline. There is also a MODERATE danger of triggering a deep slab avalanche on slopes facing northwest, north, northeast and east, above about 8,500í that are steeper than 35 degrees.On south facing slopes without recent deposits wind deposits and slopes less than steep than 30 degrees, the avalanche danger is generally LOW.


Western Uintas Ė call 1-800-648-7433 for weekend and holiday forecasts.


Mountain Weather:

The Talkingheads weather continues with the same as it ever was.Continued clear with scattered high clouds going by at times and another beautiful full moon tonight.Ridge top winds will blow around 20 mph from the northwest this morning, switching to the south later today.Ridge top temperatures will get up to nearly 30 today with 8,000í temperatures getting up to nearly 40 degrees.


As for the extended forecast: we will see some increasing clouds on Monday in advance of a weak system going mostly north of us on Tuesday.Then, we will have another slightly stronger system on Thursday and Friday.I hope Iím wrong, but donít expect too much from these systems as we are still stuck under a ridge and these systems have to break through the ridge to reach us, which tends to keep them on the wimpy side.We still donít see any significant snow in the forecast until at least the end of the month.


General Information:

Wasatch Powderbird Guides will be flying in Silver, Cardiff and Dayís Forks with a home run in White Pine.Yesterday, they flew in the same terrain.


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 Sunday morning.


Thanks for calling!



National Weather Service - Salt Lake City - Snow.

For an explanation of avalanche danger ratings: