Wasatch Cache National Forest

In partnership with: The Friends of the Utah Avalanche Center, Utah Department of Public Safety Division of Comprehensive Emergency Management,

Salt Lake County, and Utah State Parks: http://www.avalanche.org/~uac/


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Avalanche advisory

Saturday, January 31, 2004,   7:30 am


Good morning, this is Evelyn Lees with the Forest Service Utah Avalanche Center with your backcountry avalanche and mountain weather advisory.  Today is Saturday, January 31, 2004, and it’s 7:30 a.m.


The Banff Film Festival, a benefit for the Friends of the Utah Avalanche Center, is on February 9th and 10th at Kingsbury Hall.  Tickets are now available at Kingsbury Hall, REI, The Outdoor Recreation Program or any Art-Tix Outlet.  For more information, call Rob at the U of U Outdoor Program at 581-8516.


Current Conditions:

A cold front cruised through northern Utah overnight, plunging temperatures into the single digits and coating the mountains with a layer of low density snow.  Snow totals are 3 to 5” in the SL, PC and Ogden mountains, with 6 to 8” in the Provo mountains.  While the winds were moderate yesterday and last night, this morning they’ve decreased to less than 10 mph from the northwest.  Only the highest peaks still have speeds greater than 15 mph, with gusts near 30.  Temperatures are 10 to 15 degrees cooler than yesterday morning - in the single digits at 10,000’ and the teens at 7,000’.


While the new snow will improve the turning, riding and snowshoeing conditions, you’ll still be feeling and breaking through the shallowly buried ice crust.  But at least the crust chips shouldn’t be giving face shots any more and the noise level should be a few decibels lower.


Avalanche Conditions:

Several weak layers currently reside in the upper foot of the snow pack.  Most of the avalanche activity today will be just above or below the thin rain/rime crust that formed on Thursday.  This ice crust is wide spread in the Ogden, Salt Lake, Park City and Uinta mountains, occurring in most drainages and on most aspects.  On steep slopes, I expect the new snow to move easily with ski cuts just above or just below the crust.  While most of these soft slabs should be very shallow, less than 8 “ deep, don’t get caught on the wrong side of a slope cut or on a slope with a deeper wind pillow.  Most of the activity should be above 8000’, especially along the higher ridges in wind affected terrain.  The crust may allow some of these shallow slides to break out wider than expected, and perhaps be faster moving.  


Now just because there’s a new weak layer in town, don’t forget about the January facets buried about a foot deep.  In a few areas, a shallow slide triggered in the new snow could step down to the facets, creating a deeper, more dangerous slide.  The wet snow avalanche cycle should be over, and the cold temperatures will be refreezing and locking up the snow pack even at the lowest elevations.


Bottom Line for the Wasatch Range, including the Salt Lake AND Park City, ogden and provo MOUNTAINS:

The avalanche danger is moderate on all slopes steeper than 35 degrees, especially with recent drifts of wind blown snow.  Moderate means that human triggered avalanches are possible.


Uinta Mountains:  For Uinta specific information, click on Western Uintas on the advisory page or phone 1-800-648-7433.


Mountain Weather:

The cold front has stalled over extreme southern Utah, leaving northern Utah under a cold, drying air mass.  The mountains will have mostly cloudy skies today, with occasional light snow showers.  Winds will remain from the north northwest, generally in the 10 to 20 mph range.  Temperatures will be much cooler, with highs at 10,000’ near 5 and at 8,000’ near 15.  It will be partly cloudy and cold both tonight and Sunday, with light northwest winds.  Lows tonight near zero and highs Sunday in the single digits at 10,000’.  Next week’s weather looks unsettled with mostly cloudy skies and minor weak disturbances bringing periods of light snow.


For specific digital forecasts for the Salt Lake, Provo or Ogden mountains, CLICK HERE.


General Information:

The Wasatch Powderbird Guides did not operate yesterday and today, weather permitting, they will have one ship in Snake Creek and American Fork, and a second ship moving through White Pine, Silver, Days, Cardiff, Mill Creek, Grizzly Gulch, and the Bountiful Sessions trying to avoid the crust.


The Friends of the Utah Avalanche Center are offering a three day avalanche class February 14-16.  For more information or to sign up, contact Black Diamond Equipment at (801) 278-0233.  2092 E. 3900 S.


If you are getting into the backcountry, please give us a call and let us know what you’re seeing, especially if you trigger an avalanche.  You can leave a message at 524-5304 or 1-800-662-4140.  Or you can e-mail an observation to [email protected] .org, or you can fax an observation 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. 


Drew Hardesty will update this advisory Sunday morning.

Thanks for calling.