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

Monday, December 13, 2004 7:30 Am


Good morning, this is Drew Hardesty with the Forest Service Utah Avalanche Center with your backcountry avalanche and mountain weather advisory. Today is Monday, December 13, 2004, and its 7:30 am.


We will be giving an avalanche awareness talk at the Salt Lake REI Tuesday night at 7pm.


Current Conditions:

Hope you washed your Hawaiian shirt from yesterday, because youll need it again for today. Temperatures remained above freezing at all but the highest elevations again overnight for the third night in a row. Winds noticeably shifted to the southeast overnight and are averaging 15-25mph across the highest ridgelines, but those should diminish in the next couple hours. As far as snow surface conditions go, you can find a December version of spring skiing on the steep sunny aspects with a smorgasbord of character enhancing conditions on the off and shady slopes.

Avalanche Conditions:

Fortunately, we had a break from any incidents in the backcountry yesterday and we had teams investigating the accidents in Mineral Fork, above Strawberry Reservoir, and up near Bountiful Peak. Reports and photos on these should be posted later today. But in brief, Bruce reported the slide in Mineral Fork to be 2-4 deep and 600 wide, running almost 1500 while Craig remarked that the slide above Strawberry was one of the largest human triggered avalanches hed ever seen. Dougs photos at Bountiful Peak are jaw dropping.


Clearly, warm temps have helped the snowpack gain strength the last couple of days, but its too much of a good thing. Direct solar heating, daytime highs in the 40s and above freezing temperatures have stoked the wet slab activity on the sunny aspects. Natural wet slabs were reported along the Timpanogas and Cascade Ridge massifs above Provo along the 9000 contour line, with some eyeballed at a couple feet deep and up to 400 wide. Ski cuts on southerly aspects in the upper Cottonwoods were producing similar, but smaller, results during the heat of the day.


The Powderbirds, protecting the search and rescue effort for yesterday, threw a number of explosives in upper Mineral Fork with mixed results. Some were quite large and pulling out hard slabs into old snow, as expected. At the same time, there were no reported dry human triggered slides from yesterday, and the ski areas reported little activity with continued explosive testing. On the whole, the snowpack is slowly starting to heal with the problem areas confined to more localized areas. But its like being in Alaska and someone telling you the grizzly bears are just a little nicer than they were yesterday. So, weve arrived at the point where any avalanche triggered will be extremely large and dangerous. And tricky. They may still be triggered from a distance and hard slabs may allow you to get half way down the slope before pulling out. Most savvy folks are still too shy to hang it out on slopes steeper than 35 degrees while following the strictest safe travel protocol, such as having only one person on a slope at a time.


Bottom Line (Salt Lake, Park City, Ogden, Provo, and Western Uinta mountains): The danger is MODERATE WITH POCKETS OF CONSIDERABLE on and below any steep slope at the mid and upper elevations. The danger of wet slab activity will rise to CONSIDERABLE with daytime heating at lower elevations and on sun exposed slopes.


Mountain Weather:

Itll be mostly sunny with 10,000 temps in the mid-thirties with 8000 highs in the low to mid 40s. Winds will be 10-20 mph from the southeast. Looks like a weak storm Tuesday night into Wednesday with a ridge building in for later in the 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.

Evelyn Lees will update this advisory by 7:30 Tuesday morning, and thanks for calling.