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.

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Wednesday, January 30, 2008  7:30 am
Good morning, this is Evelyn Lees with the Forest Service Utah Avalanche Center with your backcountry avalanche and mountain weather advisory.  Today is Wednesday, January 30, 2008 and it’s about 7:30 am. 


Special Avalanche Advisory:

A Special Avalanche Advisory has been issued for the northern Wasatch mountains from Logan through Ogden, Park City, Salt Lake City and Provo.  Heavy snowfall and strong winds have created a High Avalanche Danger.  Both natural and human triggered avalanches are likely.  Backcountry travel on and below steep slopes is not recommended. 


There are many canyon closures this morning, including intermittent closures in Provo Canyon.  Ice climbing in Provo is closed due to the potential for control work.


Current Conditions:

It has been snowing hard in the mountains overnight, with many stations in the Cottonwoods, Provo, Ogden and Park City mountains reporting 15 to 20 inches of new snow.  The winds shifted from the southwest to northwest early this morning with frontal passage, and increased into the 20 to 30 mph range with gusts in the 40s.  Speeds are higher in the more exposed terrain.  Temperatures have tumbled back down into the single digits at 10,000’.


Snow and Avalanche Discussion:

Reports of avalanche activity are coming in fast and furious this morning from resort snow safety and snow cat drivers and highway workers.  A widespread new snow avalanche cycle has been occurring since 3 am, with activity on all aspects and elevations.  Avalanches are not just limited to road banks, but debris indicates some of larger paths are running long distances.  Even the smaller sluffs are piling snow up 5 to 6 feet deep in terrain traps like gullies and road beds below steep road banks. 


Yesterday’s old, but still pertinent news: naturals observed from the last storm included Banana Days (photos posted here and here); with small slides from early in the storm on the east face Kessler and in the Monitor.  In the backcountry, one slide was triggered on SE facing slope 15 to 30 inches deep by 50 feet wide, and a shooting crack on a NW facing slope, 10,000’.  Highway and resort control work triggered numerous new snow wind slabs, averaging 6 to 12 inches deep, with a few up to 3 feet deep, most in the 50 to 100 foot range.  All this activity appeared to be storm snow only, with many slides failing on graupel.



For today, it’s too much snow too fast… While the avalanche activity is probably peaking this morning with the high precipitation rates, it will continue to be easy for people to trigger loose snow sluffs and soft slab avalanches today.  Natural slides are still possible, especially in wind affected terrain.  Anytime snowfall rates increase again today or the winds pick up where you are, avalanche activity, including spontaneous slides, will increase rapidly.  Any backcountry travel today necessitates careful route finding, and uncertainty requires conservative decision making.  


Deeper slides are also possible - any slide triggered in the new snow could step down, taking out the snow from two or more storms, resulting in a much larger, longer running slide.   These larger slides could be 2 to 4 feet deep and 100 to 200 feet wide.  Adding to the tricky conditions, not all the near surface facets and surface hoar were blasted away by the Sunday’s winds, and some got preserved and buried, especially in wind sheltered, protected spots.


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

The avalanche danger is HIGH on and below most slopes steeper than about 35 degrees.   Both human triggered and natural avalanches are likely today.  Travelers heading into the backcountry today need excellent snowpack and terrain evaluation skills.  Stay on low angle slopes and avoid avalanche runout zones.  Watch out for and avoid terrain traps such as gullies and road beds or trails below steep banks.


Mountain Weather:

The cold front has moved south of the area, and snow fall should taper off for a while this morning.  Snow could increase again by noon as a secondary disturbance moves into the area, and areas favored by northwest flow could pick up an additional 6 to 8” of snow today.  The northwesterly winds will remain in the 15 to 25 mph range, with gusts to 50 in the more exposed terrain.  Temperatures will be in the low teens at 8,000’ and near zero at 10,000.  Partial clearing tonight, with gusty northwesterly winds and sub zero temperatures.  The next stronger storm will move through northern Utah Thursday night and Friday.


Yesterday, the
Wasatch Powderbird Guides flew in Cardiff, Days, Silver, Grizzly, and Emma ridges & American Fork. They will not fly today.  For more detailed information please call (801) 742-2800 or go to their daily blog.

The second annual avalanche awareness snowmobile ride is Saturday, February 2nd and proceeds will help support snowmobile specific avalanche awareness projects.  Details can be found at http://www.avarides.com/


Backcountry Awareness Week is February 8-10th, featuring a Friday night fundraising dinner with guest speaker David Oliver Relin, author of the New York Times bestseller Three Cups of Tea: One Man's Mission to Promote Peace...One School at a Time and avalanche awareness clinics on Saturday and Sunday, all held at Snowbird.  For more information, call 933-2147 or go to http://www.avalanche.org/~uac/fuac-events.htm.

If you want to get this avalanche advisory e-mailed to you daily click
UDOT highway avalanche control work info can be found by calling
(801) 975-4838.
Our statewide tollfree line is 1-888-999-4019 (early morning, option 8).

The UAC depends on contributions from users like you to support our work.  To find out more about how you can support our efforts to continue providing the avalanche forecasting and education that you expect please visit our Friends page.

If you see any avalanches or interesting snow conditions, 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.

I will update this advisory by 7:30 on Thursday morning.