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



Monday, January 02, 2006  7:30am
Good morning, this is Drew Hardesty with the Forest Service Utah Avalanche Center with your backcountry avalanche and mountain weather advisory.  Today is Monday, January 02, 2006, and it’s about 7:30 am.

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Current Conditions:

It’s already becoming known as the New Year’s Eve cycle of 2006.  2005 went out with a bang as Saturday night’s 12-16” and strong southerly winds finally broke the back of the upper tier of the snowpack.  Indeed, yesterday’s fine weather made for some good rubbernecking at all the avalanche activity, and I’ll have photos of some of them posted later today.  Fortunately for us ‘wet feet’, yesterday’s break was only a pause for the storm cycle to catch its breath, and today we’ll see classic pre-storm weather in the Wasatch.  Currently, it’s snowing with moisture streaming in ahead of the main storm, and mountain temperatures in the low to mid-twenties.  The winds will be the big ticket item, as they are blowing 30-40mph from the south enroute forecasted speeds of 50-60mph by afternoon.  Southerly aspects will be crusted while good turning conditions abound on the sheltered shady slopes.    


Avalanche Conditions:

At a time when revelers were clinking glasses of eggnog to celebrate the New Year, high snowfall rates and strong winds were producing natural avalanches across the range, with perhaps the most impressive slides taking place in, of course, Provo.  On Timpanogos, numerous naturals were reported up to 6-8’ deep and up to 1500’ wide, running over 3500’.  By morning, stability had increased with time and settlement and avalanches became much more stubborn, often needing a wallop like explosives or a cornice (see West Monitor photo and crown profile) to pull out.  And pull out they, did, as DOT teams triggered most of their slide paths in Little Cottonwood Canyon with one crossing the road and ski patrol teams triggering 6-8’ monsters in steep wind loaded terrain.  Control work along the Park City ridgeline pulled out some to the ground, with one ripping out 8’ deep and 600’ wide with a single shot.   


My sense is that, with a few exceptions, much of the instabilities from the cycle will have settled out overnight.  Complicating matters will be today’s weather and strong winds.  As I see it, three problems will exist for today.  First will be the lingering wind slabs in mid and upper elevations terrain.  While become less likely of a scenario, it may still be possible to trigger a soft or hard slab 1-3’ deep on a variety of crusts, ice lenses, and intra-storm weaknesses.  Secondly, the strong southerly winds will be moving lots of snow, drifting them into sensitive wind slabs both in the steep lee starting zones and further down the slope.  Caution should be observed around steep gulleys, sidewalls and breakovers.  Adding insult to injury here would be that any new slide triggered may be that extra thump to pull out any lingering instabilities within the recent storm snow.  Thirdly, the threat of stepping down into older faceted snow has reared its ugly head.  This will have the most potential in steep, shallow, rocky terrain and most common along the Tri-canyon periphery, the east side of the range, and in the Provo mountains.


Preliminary accident report from Timpanogos can be found here.


Bottom Line:

The avalanche danger will be CONSIDERABLE today on steep wind drifted slopes.  Areas most affected will be in mid and upper elevation northwest through east facing slopes.  A MODERATE danger exists in sheltered slopes at the mid-elevations.  If we pick up more snow than expected today, watch for a rapidly rising danger. 


Mountain Weather:

Light snowfall will fall in the mountains today with many areas expected to pick up 3-6” by late tonight.  The southwesterly winds will increase to 45-50mph across the high ridgelines, with winds likely affecting the mid-elevations as well.  8000’ and 10,000’ temps will be about 30 and 25 degrees, respectively.  A vigorous storm moves through overnight with expected storm totals in the 12-18” range.  The rest of the week looks warm and mild. 


Regional Snow Profile (this profile can also be found daily off our home page under avalanche products)

Click here for Seasonal Weather History Charts.

Yesterday, Wasatch Powderbird Guides got out briefly in American Fork.  If they can get out today, they’ll return. For more info, call 742-2800.

Please report any backcountry snow and avalanche conditions you observe.  Call (801) 524-5304 or 1-800-662-4140, email [email protected] or fax 801-524-6301.  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.

To have this advisory automatically e-mailed to you each day, click HERE.  (You must re-sign up this season even if you were on the list last season.)

UDOT also has a highway avalanche control work hotline for Little Cottonwood road, which is updated as needed. 801-975-4838.

We will update this advisory by 7:30 Tuesday morning.  Thanks for calling.