Wasatch Cache National Forest
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Avalanche advisory

Friday, March 18, 2005
Good morning, this is Brett Kobernik with the Forest Service Utah Avalanche Center with your backcountry avalanche and mountain weather advisory.  Today is Friday, March 18, 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:
I had given up hope as I went to bed last night on the storm but a squall moved through producing another 5 inches at Alta overnight.  Storm totals are around 6 to 9 inches in the upper ends of the Cottonwoods with snow totals tapering off drastically as you loose elevation.  Other 24 hour snow totals are about 6 inches along the Park City ridgeline, 3 inches in the Ogden mountains and it looks like the Provo area got shorted with only a trace to a couple inches.

The winds continue to blow in the “almost annoying” range along the ridges this morning.  Many ridgetop stations are in the 15 to 20 mph range with gusts in the upper 20s.  At 11,000 feet winds are blowing in the 30 to 40 mph range with some gusts over 50.  Temperatures are cooler now then they were yesterday at this time in the mid teens along the ridges.

Avalanche Conditions:
I received a few reports of the new snow sluffing quite easily on Thursday which would indicate the snow may not have bonded all that well to the old surface.  I found a number of fresh wind drifts and wind slabs that were semi-sensitive to slope cuts and stomping cornices.  (Wind slabs: PHOTOS and INFO)  The deeper drifts along the ridges were up to 2 feet deep.  Some of these chunks that broke did propagate out some small slabs once they hit the steeper slopes below.  The largest wind slab that I got to move from a slope cut was around 50 feet wide and 4 to 8 inches deep. 

I saw no natural avalanche activity on Thursday and the activity from slope testing was only along the upper ridges. 

The small amounts of snow that fell previous to Wednesday are acting as a weak layer on the more northerly facing aspects at the higher elevations.  With additional snow and wind from overnight expect fresh wind slabs to be more sensitive and propagate wider on these slopes today.  Slope cuts should be an effective tool on these drifts.  You shouldn’t have to get too far down of the ridges to avoid the danger today.

The new snow will be quite sensitive to any heating that occurs during the day today.  Heating can occur very easily at this time of year even if the sun doesn’t come out.

Bottom Line (Salt Lake mountains):
There is a MODERATE danger on slopes steeper then 35 degrees that have fresh deposits of wind drifted snow.  These slopes most likely will be sensitive to the weight of a person.  If you trigger one of these slabs, the consequences of getting buried are not real great but I’d be concerned about going for a nasty ride on a firm crust and getting pushed into rocks or trees.  Once the new snow heats up today, any wet avalanches have the potential to entrain a lot of snow and would pack more of a punch once they get moving. 

Bottom Line (Ogden and Provo area mountains):
Without much new snow the avalanche danger is generally LOW although you may find some very small sensitive wind slabs along the ridges.


Mountain Weather: (You can find the afternoon Weather Update here.)
This morning we’ll see cloudy skies, cool temperatures and moderate winds.  Things will heat up somewhat during the day with temperatures at 8000 feet getting into the mid 30s but should stay below freezing at the higher elevations.  Winds will decrease as the day moves on and will be from the west.

The storm for Saturday night into Sunday is looking promising with a moist southwest flow and unstable air which could produce a decent shot of snow.

Yesterday, Wasatch Powderbird Guides did not fly.  They will be in Mineral, Cardiff, Days, Silver, Grizzly and American Fork if they are able to fly today.

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.

I will update this advisory by 7:30 on Saturday morning.

Thanks for calling.