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:

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Avalanche ADVISORY

Saturday, December 11, 2004 7:30 Am†††††††††

 

Good morning, this is Bruce Tremper with the Forest Service Utah Avalanche Center with your backcountry avalanche and mountain weather advisory.Today is Saturday, December 11, 2004, and itís 7:30 am.

 

We have allowed the Avalanche Warning to expire but conditions remain very dangerous.

 

Avalanche Conditions:

Unfortunately, an avalanche fatality occurred late yesterday afternoon just south of Twin Lakes Pass, which is a backcountry area midway between Alta, Solitude and Brighton resorts.Two skiers climbed up on the Big Cottonwood side of the ridge and they triggered a large, deep avalanche which buried and killed a 23-year-old from Salt Lake City.†† His partner, who was not buried, located the victim using avalanche rescue beacons and dug him out within a few minutes but he did not respond to CPR.For more details, call our more detailed line at 346-1591 and we will post more details tomorrow after Drew Hardesty investigates the accident today.

 

It was a wild day yesterday.The avalanche warning and a HIGH danger lived up to its billing.As forecast, several more large, natural avalanches popped out as rapid warming in the afternoon continued to push an already-cranky snowpack past its breaking point.On west facing Patsy Marly, a backcountry area just east of Alta Ski Area (and just on the other side of the hill from the fatality) several large, natural avalanches fractured out in the afternoon.Also, there was a disconcerting, large natural on an east-facing, unskied, but closed, terrain at mid Little Cottonwood Canyon.Avalanche control by the resorts continued to produce large, scary avalanches, especially in uncompacted, unskied terrain.

 

Yesterday was the first clear day after the storm, which allowed us to get a first glimpse at the carnage in the backcountry. I will update the avalanche list and photos page later in the morning. Nearly all of these avalanches were deep, wide monsters where even the small ones would ruin your day.Most were breaking 2-3 feet deep and up to several hundred feet wide.The storm added huge amounts of water weight, which created a very stiff, heavy slab, which is sliding on a very weak layer of faceted snow and surface hoar that formed during the clear weather in November.Itís the avalanche equivalent of slamming a concrete block down on top of a pile of tortilla chips.

 

Although the avalanche activity during the storm was quite widespread, there are still a disconcerting number of slopes which did not slide and they are still hanging in the balance just waiting for a trigger.In addition, temperatures are 10 degrees warmer this morning than yesterday morning with ridge top temperatures between 35 and 40 this morning, which should continue to make the snowpack cranky.Especially avoid steep north through east facing slopes, even at mid and lower elevations where the weak faceted snow was weakest before it got buried.I wish I could continue to call it a HIGH danger today, but it doesnít quite fit the definition of HIGH, so I wonít call it HIGH.It just barely on the CONSIDERABLE side of HIGH.Instead, itís a very HIGH-pucker-factor CONSIDERABLE.Get the point?This means that human triggered avalanches are probable and natural avalanches are still possible.The bottom line today is that no way, no how should anyone jump into steep terrain.Just give it a rest this weekend.The surface snow is dense, supportable Styrofoam and you can have plenty of fun on slopes less than 30 degrees.If you want something steeper, go to the resorts.If you want LOW danger terrain today in the backcountry stay off of and out from underneath any slope steeper than 30 degrees.Finally, todayís extremely warm temperatures will cause continued wet sluffing, rollerballs and occasional wet slabs at lower elevations and on sun exposed slopes.

 

Mountain Weather:

It should be a real cooker in the mountains today with ridge top temperatures around 40 and 8,000í temperatures just under 50 degrees.In addition, we will have some scattered high clouds, which may cause some green housing and very soggy snow at lower elevations.Ridge top winds will be around 20 mph from the west and southwest.We will have a similar, but somewhat cooler, day on Sunday with a weak brush-by on Monday and a chance of some more snow by about mid week.

 

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 send 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.

Drew Hardesty will update this advisory by 7:30 Sunday morning, and thanks for calling.

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