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
April 24, 2006† 3:00 pm
Hello, this is the
Just because there are no more advisories doesnít mean that there are no more avalanches, it just means that we have run out of money and all of our staff has headed off to their summer jobs.
Here is a little primer on the avalanche conditions you can expect this spring and how to get the information you need.
As you know, spring is the season that can never make up its mind whether itís winter or summer.† We usually have cold snow storms once a week with very warm summer-like weather in between.† In other words, you have to deal with both dry and wet avalanches, often in the same day.
First for the dry avalanches:
Most every storm is also accompanied by wind, so as usual, you should avoid steep slopes with recent wind deposits.† They will look smooth and rounded and often feel slabby or punchy.† Also, many storms contain density inversions within the new snow, so you should always jump on small test slopes to see how they respond.† Remember that ski areas are closed for the season, so there is no one knocking down the avalanches with explosives each morning before you arrive.††† Itís always hard this time of year to switch your brain around and remember your favorite mogul field could easily produce an avalanche that can kill you.† Donít jump in on top of another party and get out of the way at the bottom.
Next for wet
As we always say, snow is a lot like people, it doesnít like rapid change.† One of the most rapid changes snow can endure is when cold, dry snow is blasted by hot springtime sunshine and warm temperatures.† The first sign of trouble is when you see rollerballs coming down the slope.† As the snow becomes wetter, it produces point-release wet sluffs and occasionally wet slabs.† As always, you should get off of and out from underneath any steep slope when you are sinking into wet snow.†
When you head out for some springtime corn snow, the way you play the game is to get out early and get home early.†† Start on the southeast facing slopes in morning when the sun softens them up enough to get a grip, then move progressively onto the south facing slopes, southwest and west facing slopes as the sun makes the snow soft and punchy.† You should be home by about noon.† You can check for refreezes at night by monitoring the automated weather stations at Alta and Snowbird, which will run through the spring.† With a clear sky and dry air, the snow surface will refreeze even with air temperatures as high as 38 degrees, but with a cloudy sky you need temperatures of freezing or below.† A moderate to strong breeze can also help to delay the snow surface getting mushy during the day.† Be sure to bookmark the National Weather Service page and you should regularly consult the Snow Page, the Satellite Imagery page (look at infrared Western U.S. 2km).
Also avoid traveling beneath slopes with glide cracks as they can release at any time of day or night.† You will find them on steep slopes underlain by rock slabs or smooth, grassy slopes, such as Stairs Gulch, Broads Fork and Mill B South.
If there is anything we should know about, continue to let us know by calling (801) 524-5304 or 1-800-662-4140, email [email protected] or fax 801-524-6301
Well, good luck, stay on top and weíll talk to you again next fall.†