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:

 

Avalanche INFORMATION

Tuesday, October 26, 2004 4:00 pm

 

Good afternoon, this is Evelyn Lees with the Forest Service Utah Avalanche Center with your backcountry avalanche and mountain weather information. Today is Tuesday, October 25, 2004, and its 4:00 pm. Well be issuing afternoon bulletins through the end of the month on an almost daily basis. Dont miss the annual Friends of the Utah Avalanche Center ski swap at REI on Saturday, November 6th. Gear drop off will be on Thursday and Friday evenings.

 

Current Conditions:

Today turned out to be a mild, in-between storms day, with temperatures in the low 30s at 9,000 and southerly winds in the 10 to 20 mph range across the higher ridges. The most recent snow from the past few days has settled fast, and most slopes have a surface of dense powder.

 

Avalanche Conditions

Without the expected strong winds, the snow pack was mostly stable today, though there were a few reports of sensitive cornices and small wind pockets. The next storm should start to affect northern Utah starting tonight, with strong winds and 1 to 2 of dense snow expected by Thursday morning. So if you are heading into the backcountry tomorrow, Wednesday, expect a rising avalanche danger, with several key things to watch for. First, be alert for rain falling on snow. In some areas, the rain snow line may start as high as 8,500, and a prolonged period of rain falling on the existing snow could lead to natural, wet loose snow slides. I expect most of the avalanche activity to be within the new snow, so check how well the new snow is bonding to the old snow by doing quick hand pits. On most slopes, the surface snow is warm and dense. However, cold, light surface snow remains on upper elevation, shady slopes, and cracking in the new snow may be a clue of poor bonding. And finally, avoid any fresh drifts of wind blown snow on steep slopes. These new, sensitive wind drifts will be most widespread on northeast through northwesterly facing slopes, but watch for drifts around terrain features such as gullies, rocks and sub ridges.

 

Remember, the unopened ski areas are not doing control work, and are just as dangerous as the backcountry. Also, some ski areas may start posting closures so they can prepare to open, so please obey all signs. The Alta Ski Area will close their area to backcountry travelers and uphill traffic starting Tuesday evening for control work and construction, with the closure lasting through the storm.

 

Bottom Line:

The avalanche danger is MODERATE on slopes steeper than about 35 degrees with recent deposits of wind drifted snow, which are most widespread along the higher ridgelines. Elsewhere, the danger is generally LOW. Wednesday, the avalanche danger will be increasing, and should rise to CONSIDERABLE on and below steep slopes, especially those with wind drifted snow. Considerable means natural avalanches are possible, and human triggered avalanches probable. Whenever natural avalanche activity is possible, backcountry travelers, including hunters, need to be aware the slopes above them and avoid travel below steep slopes and in runout zones. Elk Point in the Provo area mountains had two natural avalanche cycles Sunday and Monday, and the impressive debris piles that are 20 to 30 deep and close to summer trails are a good reminder that when there is natural avalanche activity, you dont need to be in the starting zone to be buried.

 

Mountain Weather:

Starting tonight, a very moist southerly flow will bring steady precipitation to the northern Wasatch mountains through early Thursday. Snow developing tonight, with 5 to 8 possible. Winds will be from the south, averaging over 30 mph along the ridges. Lows will be near 30 at 8,000. Wednesday, continuing snow, with additional accumulations of 6 to 10, possibly more in favored locations. Strong southerly winds, with 8000 highs in the mid 30s. The upper trough will cross the area late Thursday or Thursday night, bringing more snow to the mountains on a cooler northwest flow. Another colder storm is expected to arrive towards the end of the weekend.

 

If you are getting out, drop us a line or an email with any reports or observations from the backcountry. You can leave us a message at 524-5304 or 1 800-662-4140. Email us at [email protected], or a fax to 524-6301.

The information in this advisory is from the US Forest Service, which is solely responsible for its content. This advisory describes general avalanche conditions and local variations always occur.

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