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

Thursday, March 17, 2005
Good morning, this is Bruce Tremper with the Forest Service Utah Avalanche Center with your backcountry avalanche and mountain weather advisory.  Today is Thursday, March 17, 2005, and its 7:30 in the morning.

This Saturday, March 19, the 3rd Annual Black Diamond PowderKeg Race will make the Grizzly Gulch/Twin Lakes Pass areas busy with racers in the first half of the morning.  Come out and watch the extremely fast World Cup racers.

Current Conditions:
The bad news is that it’s been nearly a month since we have had any significant snow.  The good news is that today we may finally break the streak.  The cold front boundary is SLOWLY sagging south and it should finally start snowing by about noon.  There’s already 4 inches in the Logan area mountains.  In the mean time, hang onto your hats, kids, because it’s nuking along the ridges blowing from the west 40-50 mph with gusts to 60 and 70 along the most exposed ridges. Luckily, no matter how hard it blows, there’s almost nothing to blow around.  Our very worn-out, old snow is nothing but hard sun and wind crusts on most slopes with hard-as-rock corn snow on south facing slopes resembles concrete traffic barriers where it’s tracked out.  Yes, we’re in desperate need of some freshening up.

Avalanche Conditions:
Luckily, it looks like the storm will do its huffing and puffing before it does its fluffing.  Winds should die down to a reasonable 30 mph along the ridges before it starts snowing, perhaps around noon.  Unfortunately, the storm is quite a mess and snow amounts are almost impossible to forecast.  The best guess is for about 6 inches by Friday morning. So, it’s one of those days with rising avalanche danger that will depend on how much snow and wind we get.  It’s really pretty simple.  You will easily be able to trigger shallow, soft-slab avalanches on any slope steeper than about 35 degrees with recent wind deposits and it will be a literally rock-solid in the wind eroded areas.  Wind slabs look smooth and rounded with a chalky color and they often feel slabby and sound hollow.  If you find em—avoid em.

Also, even in non-wind drifted areas, there’s no lack of slick, hard surfaces for the new snow to slide on, so be sure to test how well the new snow bonds by digging down with your hand, jumping on test slopes and doing slope cuts.

Bottom Line (Salt Lake, Park City, Ogden and Provo mountains):
The avalanche danger is generally LOW this morning but will instantaneously rise to MODERATE or higher where the wind has deposited snow onto slopes steeper than about 35 degrees.  Also, if snow piles up deeper than about six inches the danger will rise to MODERATE even on non-wind drifted slopes that have hard, slick crusts underneath.  

Mountain Weather: (You can find the afternoon Weather Update here.)
It feels good to finally be able to use the “S” word in our weather forecasts—actual snow.  High winds this morning should die down to 30 mph from the west-northwest and snow should finally begin in the mountains by about noon.  Snow amounts are impossible to forecast with this type of storm but if we all wish hard enough we may be able to see six new inches of snow by Friday morning.  Temperatures will be in the upper teens along the ridge tops and the mid 20’s down at 8,000’.

Then, it looks like a bit of a break on Friday and we have a juicy-looking storm starting by about the time the Powderkeg race ends by mid morning Saturday and continues on Sunday.  Then another nice storm for about Tuesday.  Yes, we’re finally back in the flow.

Yesterday, Wasatch Powderbird Guides did not fly.  They probably won’t fly today but if they do, they will be in Mineral, Cardiff, Days, Silver, White Pine, Cascade and American Fork.

If you have any snow or avalanche observations, call and leave a message at 524-5304 or 1-800-662-4140, or e-mail us at [email protected].  Fax is 524-6301.

UDOT COTTONWOOD CANYONS HOTLINE FOR ROAD CLOSURE AND AVALANCHE CONTROL INFORMATION: 975-4838.  We try to update our early morning avalanche activity report by around 5:30 am at 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 Friday morning.

Thanks for calling.