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.



Sunday, March 19, 2006  7:30 am
Good morning, this is Drew Hardesty with the Forest Service Utah Avalanche Center with your backcountry avalanche and mountain weather advisory.  Today is Sunday, March 19, 2006, and it’s about 7:30 am. 


Current Conditions:

And still winter continues.  The Wasatch picked up another 4-6” from Ogden to Provo overnight and it’s still snowing.   And it’ll continue to snow through tonight.  Winds are light and variable with temperatures in the upper teens and low twenties.  Storm totals are now about 12-16” with densities just below 10%, despite a few waves of lunar-lander shaped graupel.  “Sun breaks”, as they’re called in the Pacific Northwest, intermittently crusted many slopes on the southern end of the dial, but they should now be buried by 4-8” of snow. 


Recent Avalanche Activity & Snowpack Discussion:

Just about everybody and their dog found sensitive soft slabs on steep slopes yesterday.  Most were 12-16” deep and about 50-100’ wide, with a few outliers up to 200’ wide.  They were most common in areas that saw the brunt of the early morning southerly winds and/or the most snowfall.  In the lower elevations, warming temperatures and rain pulled some debris out of some northerly facing chutes and gulleys.  Of significant interest is a deep slab avalanche that ripped out in upper Big Cottonwood Canyon.  The storm snow, southerly winds, and possibly a natural cornice fall pulled out the hard slab below the steep rocky cliffs gunner’s left of the West Bowl of Silver Fork.  It broke 2-3’ deep and 300’ wide, running 400’, reportedly failing on faceted snow formed around the turn of the month.  One of our observers sent in a photo from a camera phone and a crown profile.  


The danger will continue to rise today with the expected heavy snowfall today and tonight.  Watch for cracking in the new snow on steep slopes of all aspects.  Cornice drops, test slopes, slope and switchback cuts will all give excellent clues to instability.  If you’re in steep terrain today in areas that have received the most snow, expect to trigger avalanches up to 1-2’ deep, potentially breaking deeper into older faceted snow.  The faceted snow formed on a variety of aspects at the mid and upper elevations, but are most pronounced on west, north, and east facing slopes.  


Bottom Line:

A CONSIDERABLE danger exists on all mid and upper elevation slopes steeper than 35 degrees.  Human triggered avalanches in the storm snow will be probable on a wide array of aspects.  Natural avalanches may also start to become more likely with continuing precipitation.  

Those without good route finding and avalanche skills should stay on and below gentler terrain.


Mountain Weather:

The slow moving storm will keep the engine going through tonight.  12-20” can be expected through tomorrow morning, but much depends on the slow track of the Low pressure system.  Winds will remain light and variable until tonight when they’ll likely turn northwesterly.  8000’ temps will be in the mid-twenties with ridgetop highs in the mid to upper teens.  We’ll get a quick break Monday with the next good-looking storm arriving Tuesday.


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.

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 were in the Northern Powder circuit yesterday and will be grounded due to weather today.  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.

I will update this advisory by 7:30 Monday morning.  Thanks for calling.