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, February 06, 2003

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To see cool photos of recent avalanche activity CLICK HERE (Updated 2-6-03)

To see a list of recent avalanches, CLICK HERE, (Updated 2-6-03)


Good Morning.  This is Bruce Tremper with the Forest Service Utah Avalanche Center with your backcountry avalanche and mountain weather advisory.  Today is Thursday, February 06, 2003, and it’s 7:30 in the morning.  We would like to acknowledge one of our partners, the Friends of the Utah Avalanche Center, generously supported by Uinta Brewing Company.


Current Conditions: 

It’s bitterly cold in the mountains this morning with below zero temperatures both on the higher peaks and well below zero in the high mountain valleys.  Backcountry snow conditions remain excellent on all aspects with a slight buried sun crust on south facing slopes.


Avalanche Conditions:

With hoards of powder-hungry people out yesterday testing lots of different slopes, it’s not too surprising that three different people found slopes that erupted into action.  One skier tickled an east-facing, shallow, rocky area in Toledo Chute above the town of Alta, which broke a couple feet deep and 20 feet wide.  They were able to ski out of it.  Another skier put a ski cut into the top of West Monitor on the Park City ridgeline and triggered a slide a couple feet deep and 50 feet wide on an east-facing slope.  Finally a party of skiers in Cardiac Bowl triggered the lower section of the exact same slope which buried a skier 4 feet deep back on January 6th.  This was 1-2 feet deep and about 80 feet wide and northeast-facing.   I have more details on all of the recent activity on our other recording at 364-1591 and you can check the web at www.avalanche.org and click on Salt Lake and on Advisories for photos, fracture line profiles and a list of the details of these avalanches.


All of these slides were in thin snowpack areas and they broke within the old faceted snow beneath the chocolate brown crust formed from last week’s warm temperatures, wind and dust.  Yesterday we also looked at several other recent avalanches in the same areas, which all fit this same description.  I think that total snow depth is an important key in most, of these avalanches.  Remember that thin snow means weak snow and when we drape a fairly uniform blanket of new snow over the mountains, it’s the thin snowpack areas that get cranky.  You find thin snowpacks mostly in places which have already avalanched in the past month or two, near wind-blown ridges or steep, rocky areas.  Now that everything is buried, you need x-ray vision to know which is which, so it seems like a bit of a crap shoot.  In these conditions, one handy trick I practice like a nervous tick: I turn my ski pole upside down and push the handle end into the snowpack about a hundred times per day to test the depth of the snow.  If I can hit the ground with my pole, or if I can feel some nasty hollow layers below I dig down to see what kind of monkey business is going on.  Although most slopes are staying in place quite well, there are enough booby traps out there to make things tricky and scary, so this is not the time to get too bold.  Although there’s only localized places where you can trigger an avalanche, most of these avalanches are hard slabs breaking two or more feet deep and involving a lot of snow.


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

If you’re headed above 9,000’ on northwest, north northeast or east facing slopes that are steeper than about 35 degrees:  In shallow snowpack areas, with a foot or more of new snow, the danger is CONSIDERABLE meaning that human triggered avalanches are probable.  In thicker snowpack areas, there is a MODERATE danger of triggering an avalanche into deeper weak layers .  Also, today if the sun heats up the snow you will find the usual damp, loose sluffs on south facing slopes and, as always, avoid steep slopes with recent wind drifts. On slopes less steep the 35 degrees, most slope below about 9,000’ and south facing slopes without wind drifts or sun affects, the avalanche danger is generally LOW.


Western Uintas – call 1-800-648-7433 or click here for weekend and holiday forecasts.


Mountain Weather:

The word for the day is cold.  Ridge top temperatures are below zero this morning and will barely creep above zero in the heat of the day and we’ll be lucky to reach 10 degrees down at 8,000’.  Overnight, the mercury will plunge back down below zero and could get 20 below in the bottoms of the mountain basins.  The good news is that the ridge top winds will remain light from the north and east and we will have mostly sunny skies with occasional clouds drifting by from the north, some of which may give us a few light snow flurries at times.  For the extended forecast, the cold should remain with slowly warming temperatures by the weekend.  It looks like we will return to more reasonable temperatures and a chance for more snow by mid week.


General Information:

Wasatch Powderbird Guides will be in Days, Cardiff, Silver and Grizzly Gulch.


We will be giving a free avalanche awareness talk at Milo Sport on Wednesday, February 12th at 7:00 pm.  They are on 3300 South and 3119 East.


The Banff Film Festival is coming to Kingsbury Hall February 12th and 13th, with proceeds donated to the Friends of the Utah Avalanche Center.  For ticket information, call 581-8516. 


The Friends of the Utah Avalanche Center, supported by Voile and Milosport, are offering an intensive three-day avalanche class February 15 – 17.  Half of the spots are reserved for snowboarders.  To sign up call the Black Diamond retail store 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: