Wasatch Cache National Forest
In partnership with: Utah State Parks and Recreation, The Friends of the Utah Avalanche Center, Utah Department of Emergency Services and Homeland Security and Salt Lake County.


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Avalanche advisory

Monday, February 21, 2005
Good morning, this is Bruce Tremper with the Forest Service Utah Avalanche Center with your backcountry avalanche and mountain weather advisory.  Today is Monday February 21st 2005, and its 7:30 in the morning.

Current Conditions:
Wow.  Yesterday was a wild day with much heavier snow and stronger wind than forecast.  8-15 inches of dense snow fell yesterday with around an inch of water weight in many areas.  In places favored by southwest flow, such as the Provo and Ogden area mountains, they got 1.5 – 2 inches of water weight.  This brings storm totals up to around a foot and a half of snow with 2-3 inches of water weight.

Avalanche Conditions:
Not surprisingly, the heavy, dense snow and strong wind created very widespread areas of sensitive soft slab avalanches especially in wind drifted terrain.  This morning I have a long list of both natural and human triggered avalanches in the backcountry yesterday.  Thanks to everyone for e-mailing or calling in observations. I have more details at 364-1591, which we update each morning by 5:00 am with avalanche activity.  You can also check out our avalanche list on the web. (PHOTO of a skier triggered wind slab on Ben Lomond Peak)

I will mention a couple notable slides here:  A natural avalanche off the east face of Kessler Peak in Big Cottonwood Canyon dusted a very experienced skier in the bottom of the avalanche path but she was otherwise OK.   Also, the media reports that a hiker on Mt. Nebo “fell about 1000 vertical feet down a mountain side riding an avalanche feet-first.”  Apparently, they have some bruises and frostbitten feet but are otherwise OK.

In theory, the slabs within yesterday’s new snow should settle out fairly quickly and they will be much harder to trigger today because the new snow was so wet and dense, and it was clear overnight.  What I’m more worried about is all the water weight added over the past several days continues to overload the weak layers of faceted snow, now buried about four feet deep.  I would not be surprised if some eager beaver triggered a deeper, more dangerous avalanche today. These deeper avalanches will be more difficult to trigger but they will be very large and hard to survive.  So today, like yesterday, is a good day to avoid slopes steeper than about 35 degrees, especially slopes with recent deposits of wind drifted snow and slopes that face north through east.  Since the new snow is dense and supportable, you can have plenty of fun on gentler slopes today.  Finally, you need to watch out for wet sluffs and slabs on steep sun exposed slopes when the sun makes the snow surface wet and soggy.

Bottom Line (Salt Lake, Park City, Provo, and Ogden mountains):
he avalanche danger remains CONSIDERABLE on any slope steeper than about 35 degrees especially on upper elevation slopes with recent wind deposits facing north through east.  Also, there is a CONSIDERABLE danger of damp to wet sluffs and slabs on steep slopes heated by the sun today.  (http://www.avalanche.org/~uac/ed-scale.htm for an explanation of avalanche danger ratings.)

Mountain Weather:
(You can find the afternoon Weather Update here.)
Today should be a good day to get out and see all the recent avalanches.  We will finally have a break in the weather with just a few clouds hanging around the mountain tops this morning dissipating later in the day with increasing high clouds and an increasing chance of light snow by tonight.  Ridge top winds will calm down from 15 mph to 5 mph from the southwest with ridge top temperatures around 20 degrees.  Down at 8,000’ the day time high should be near 30 with the overnight low around 20.  Tuesday, we should have light snow showers that probably won’t add up to more than a couple inches with light ridgetop winds from the southeast to southwest.  Then, it looks fairly benign for the rest of the week as a low pressure center passes to the south of Utah.

Yesterday, the Wasatch Powderbird Guides did not fly and today they will be I American Fork and Lambs Canyon.

Thanks again to everyone who is sending in observations!  This advisory is for you and it’s great to hear from people who use it.  Please keep calling us at 524-5304 or 1-800-662-4140, or e-mailing us at [email protected].  Fax is 524-6301.

UDOT COTTONWOOD CANYONS HOTLINE FOR ROAD CLOSURE INFORMATION: 975-4838.  Early birds can catch our early morning report at 6am by calling 364-1591.

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.

Brett Kobernik will update this advisory by 7:30 on Tuesday morning.

Thanks for calling.

For an explanation of avalanche danger ratings: