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.

keeping you on top


Thursday, October 26, 2006 11:00 am
This is the Forest Service Utah Avalanche Center and we will start issuing regular advisories when our staff comes onboard around November 1st. In the mean time, I am issuing intermittent updates as conditions change.


Special Announcement:

Dont forget about the annual backcountry gear swap sponsored by the Friends of the Utah Avalanche Center. It will be at the Salt Lake REI store on Saturday, November 4th. You can drop off your gear on Thursday or Friday evening and the swap opens at 9:00 am on Saturday morning.


Current Conditions:

We had a nice little snow storm blast through on Wednesday, which laid down 12-15 inches of snow above 10,000 and around 6 inches at 8,000. The pre-existing snow was nearly a foot deep above 10,000. The winds also blew from the northwest gusting to over 30 mph. Ridge top temperatures today have dropped down into the mid teens.


Avalanche Conditions:

Even though its still early in the season, any time new snow falls on pre-existing snow, there is always the potential for avalanches. Craig Gordon was up along the upper elevation ridges at Brighton this morning and was able to trigger a small pocket of wind drifted snow on a steep, northeast-facing, rollover around 10,000. The winds have also been transporting some of the new snow and creating wind slabs on downwind terrain. So there are definitely places where people can trigger avalanches today. The slides will break on the interface between the old and new snow. On shady slopes above about 10,000 there is a little bit of faceted snow between the new and old snow, making those slopes persistently sensitive.


As usual, with each snow or wind storm you need to carefully check how well the new snow is bonded to the underlying snow. You can easily do this by using test slopes, which are small, short slopes where the consequence of an avalanche are low. Just jump on them to see how they respond. You can also quickly dig down with your hand and isolate a small column of snow and pull on it to see how easily it breaks away.


Bottom Line:

There is a MODERATE danger of human triggered avalanches on all slopes where more than about 6 inches of new snow has fallen on pre-existing snow, especially on slopes with recent deposits of wind drifted snow. This is a good time to avoid wind drifted terrain. Also, the snowpack is still very shallow with lots of obstacles to hit, its a good idea to stay on slopes less steep than about 30 degrees with grass underneath.


Remember the ski resorts are not yet open, nor are they doing any avalanche control. So you have to treat them like backcountry terrain. In other words, your favorite slope that usually has moguls can easily slide and you need to cross them one at a time and never jump in when another party is below you. Every fall there are several close calls and occasional fatalities at unopened ski areas.


Finally, be sure to put fresh batteries in your beacon and do lots of practice scenarios before heading into dangerous terrain.



To find early season weather information, be sure to bookmark the National Weather Service page and you should regularly consult the Snow Page, (Alta Collins station is operating) the Satellite Imagery page (look at infrared Western U.S. 2km).


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 well be talking with you on a regular basis starting Monday, October 30th.