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


Sunday, December 24, 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, December 24, 2006 and it’s 7:30 in the morning. 


Current Conditions:

The storm passing to the north put down a trace to two inches overnight, but at least the winds cranked up to 25-30mph with the highest anemometers buzzing 45-50mph with gusts into the 70’s.  Skies above the valley are just starting to clear and I’d expect the winds to calm down by late morning as the system races off to the east.  The sun had already crusted about half the pie on the south and west facing aspects, and now the wind has shaved things down to the sheltered shady terrain.


Snowpack and Avalanche Conditions:

Two out of bounds snowboarders in the Brighton backcountry yesterday triggered a sizeable and very dangerous slab avalanche off the Pioneer Ridge, about the same area where an avalanche claimed the lives of two young snowboarders in March of 2002.  As Dale Atkins, a long time forecaster for the Colorado Avalanche Center put it years ago, the names change, but the accidents remain the same.  I was in the area looking at another slide that a friend was caught in mid-week, so I was able to take a look at the near miss.  You can find the gallery here.  The slide was at 10,240’ on a north to northeast facing slope and the 8-24”deep and 130’ wide avalanche failed on buried surface hoar from early in the month.  Neither were caught in the slide, and  I suspect they triggered it remotely from a shallow, rocky area with a total snowpack depth there of about 2’. 


While plenty of weak snow abounds, this avalanche is, in my opinion, the exception and not the rule.  It’s likely that they triggered the slide in the only place that they could have triggered it and we’ll continue to caution folks about thin, rocky areas in the shady terrain above 9500’ or so.  Much of the weakest snow, faceted grains adjacent to a rain/rime crust, produced the mini-cycle last Sunday with a few trickling in over the week. 


For now, the major issue will be the new hard and soft wind drifts from the strong west to northwesterly winds.  They’ll be sitting on some weaker faceted snow buried by Thursday night’s couple of inches and will be locally sensitive in steeper terrain, both in the usual starting zones, and below. 


Bottom Line for the Salt Lake, Park City, Ogden and Provo area mountains:

The avalanche danger is MODERATE at mid and upper elevation wind drifted slopes steeper than 35 degrees.  The danger will be most pronounced on north to east and southeast facing slopes, but be mindful of any fresh wind drifts from terrain channeling.  It may be possible to trigger avalanches at a distance today.  Out of wind-affected terrain, the danger is mostly LOW.


Mountain Weather:

The clouds should start to break up my mid-morning and we’ll see partly cloudy skies.  The west to northwesterly winds will blow 30-40mph with locally higher speeds until about midday.  8000’ temps will reach into the upper 20’s with 10,000’ highs will be in the mid-teens.  After tomorrow, the weather looks pretty unsettled with a good looking storm Tuesday night through early Thursday. 



Yesterday, the Wasatch Powderbird Guides flew in AF and Snake creek and weather permitting, will head back there today.  One ship may be alon the Cascade ridgeline.

The Rescue Training Center at the Canyons Resort is up and running now at the top of the gondola.   


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We appreciate any snowpack and avalanche observations you have, so please leave us a message at (801) 524-5304 or 1-800-662-4140, or email us at [email protected]. (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.

Drew Hardesty will update this advisory by 7:30 on Sunday morning, and thanks for calling.