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.



Wednesday, March 15, 2006  12:00am update
Good morning, this is Evelyn Lees with the Forest Service Utah Avalanche Center with your backcountry avalanche and mountain weather advisory.  Today is Wednesday, March 15, 2006, and it’s about 7:30 am. 


Current Conditions:

Yesterday, someone cranked the wind dial to high, and forgot to turn it off.  Strong, southerly winds continued through midnight, with many locations averaging 25 mph, with gusts in the 40’s to 60’s.  With the cold front’s arrived shortly after midnight, the winds shifted to the west and northwest, and decreased slightly into the 15 to 25 mph range with gusts in the 30’s and 40’s.  Temperatures are dropping; back down into the teens and single digits.  About 4 to 8” of new snow has fallen.  Wind and sun damage and avalanche danger should have backcountry travelers seeking lower angle, wind sheltered, shady slopes for turning and riding today.


Recent Avalanche Activity & Snowpack Discussion:

Yesterday’s strong southerly winds rapidly created soft and hard drifts or slabs, with the cold light density snow below as the weak layer.  A natural avalanche cycle in upper elevation, wind effected terrain began by 9:30 am in the Salt Lake mountains, followed by activity in many other areas.  Not too many people were traveling in the windiest terrain, but reported slides included naturals in Lime Light, Main Days, Wolverine Peak into Wolverine bowl, Ben Lomond, the Y Couloir, and Little Pine with an intentional skier triggered slide in East Bowl of Silver.  Slides averaged 1 to 2’ deep, 100 to 300’ wide, with northerly through easterly facing slopes above about 9,000’ the most active.


The multiple wind directions have created wind drifts on a variety of aspects and elevations.  While the drifts are most widespread on upper elevation ridgelines, the strong winds have also deposited snow at the mid elevations, down into open bowls, and drifted it around gully walls, sub ridges and steep breakovers.   


People will need to travel very cautiously in the backcountry, avoiding today’s new wind drifts and yesterday’s drifts that hidden beneath the new snow.  The old drifts will be stubborn and want to break above you.  Many slopes will be scoured, but travel a few steps in the wrong direction and you’ll be standing or riding on a dangerous wind drift.  In addition, there are a few deeper weak layers of facets and crusts that no one trusts, and it may be possible for a few slides to step down into these deeper layers. 


Constantly reevaluate the weather conditions - if you are in an area where intense snowfall rates or strong winds continue longer than expected this morning, the avalanche danger may rise briefly rise to HIGH.


Bottom Line:

The avalanche danger is CONSIDERABLE on all slopes steeper than 35 degrees above about 9,000’.  The angerous wind drifts are most widespread on northwest through easterly facing slopes, and many are hidden beneath the new snow.  Human triggered slides are probable and natural avalanches possible, so avoid travel in avalanche runout zones below steep slopes.  Backcountry travelers need excellent route finding and snow evaluation skill, and should carry beacons, shovels and probes, and carefully follow safe travel procedures.


Mountain Weather:

Moderate to heavy snow should continue through mid morning, with an additional 3 to 5 inches possible.  Snow will taper off to light showers by noon as the storm moves east of the area.  Winds will gradually decrease today, into the 15 to 20 mph range from the west.  Temperatures will be in the mid 20’s at 8,000’ and in the low teens at 10,000’.  High pressure will build in across the region tonight, with cloudy skies and an increasing southwest flow developing on Thursday.  Another storm system will affect the area Friday through the weekend.



An initial report from the Snowbasin backcountry incident can be found here.

Here is a great link to a web site on avalanche beacon information, created by a person who did independent research and testing of avalanche beacons. http://beaconreviews.com 


There are several free automated avalanche beacon practice areas open, including one at Canyons, one on the by-pass road near Snowbird, one in the northwest corner of the lower lot at Solitude, and at the Nobletts parking area on the Mirror Lake highway.  They are really easy to use, and well worth stopping for a quick practice session.


Early birds and snow geeks can catch our 6AM report at 364-1591.


Click here to check out our new online avalanche encyclopedia.

Click HERE for a text only version of the avalanche advisory.

To have this advisory automatically e-mailed to you each day, click HERE. 

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

The Wasatch Powderbird Guides didn’t get out yesterday and will probably not fly today. If they can possibly fly today, northern powder circuit and American Fork.  For more info, call 742-2800.

Please report any backcountry snow and avalanche conditions.  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.

Bruce Tremper will update this advisory by 7:30 Thursday morning.  Thanks for calling.