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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Sunday, March 16, 2008  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 16, 2008 and it’s about 7:30 am. 


Current Conditions:

Yup, still snowing out there with most areas picking up an additional 3-6” overnight of the 4-5% Wasatch champagne powder.  Totals are adding up now to near 30” in favored areas of the Cottonwoods and near 20” in favored areas of Park City.  The Provo mountains picked up an additional 2-4”, and the same for the Ogden mountains, where I confirmed excellent riding conditions in my usual haunts there in the northern Wasatch.  Winds are generally light from the north and temperatures are down into the mid teens. 


Snow and Avalanche Discussion:

Just to get caught up, another report trickled in yesterday of a skier being caught and carried Friday on southeast facing Hellgate in upper Little Cottonwood.  The slab broke above him and he was reportedly carried 100’.  Action spilled into yesterday with another skier being caught and carried in what appears to be upper Days Fork.  On a northeast facing slope at 9800’, the skier triggered a 1-2’ deep and 60’ wide soft slab, carrying him 50’.  Everyone was reported to be ok.  That makes at least 3 folks caught and carried in the past two days, with weak faceted snow reacting to the wealth of snow and triggers.  Brett found a couple naturals in the faceted snow from Friday in steep mid-Alexander Basin of Mill Creek and his report can be found on our photos page.  Collapsing in the new structure most of the way up the Cardiac Ridge rerouted one of our more keen observers yesterday, and diligent stability tests corroborate the avalanche activity on the weak layers formed last week during the spell of high pressure.  The laundry list continues: pockety soft slabs in the new snow, and alternating dry and wet long running sluffs provided more widespread action on the steeper slopes, though these are less devious and more manageable than what’s been catching and carrying folks. 


So we’ll continue to have numerous issues to deal with in the backcountry.  Sure, it’ll be epic skiing and riding once again, but mind a few details.  First, watch for continued sluffing in the low density snow on the steepest slopes.  They’ll be enough to knock you off your feet and drag you through the trees or over rockbands, with burials likely in terrain traps.  Second, if the northerly winds pick up out of the northeast this afternoon, watch for soft slab development and cracking along the highest, southerly and westerly aspects.  Third, weak layers buried now 14-20” deep will still be reactive to human triggering at the mid and upper elevations, and so far, have been triggered on northeast through southeast facing slopes.  I suspect that they’re not limited to these aspects.  Collapsing and pit digging should assist in confirmation of this layering, but slope angles of 30-35 degrees should provide some, though not all of the insurance here.  Might as well throw in the kitchen sink.  In a highly convective spring atmosphere, watch for rapid changes in the weather.  Any prolonged ‘sun-breaks’, as they call them in the Pacific Northwest, will immediately result in wet sluffing on the steep sunny slopes.    


Bottom Line for the Salt Lake and Park City mountains:

All steep mid and upper elevation slopes have at least a MODERATE danger today, with human triggered sluffs probable and soft slabs possible.  The danger is more pronounced in the Central Wasatch and trickier where slabs may still be triggered from below or at a distance.  This spiciness and now potential slab depth of up to 30” warrants a pockety CONSIDERABLE danger in isolated areas.  It’s time to recalibrate the ‘ski it if it’s white’ mentality we’ve had for the past few weeks. 


Ogden and Provo mountains: The avalanche danger is mostly LOW with the danger revolving around pockety soft slabs and long running sluffs. 


Practice safe travel procedures today, of only one person on a steep slope at a time both ascending and descending, and get out of the way at the bottom.  With lots of people in the backcountry, if you are kicking cornices or ski cutting – make sure there is no one below you – any slide triggered may run further than expected, or could triggering a second slide to the side. 


Mountain Weather:

A moist, unstable environment will keep snow showers going for much of the day, with alternating periods of late sun.  It’s spring.  Might be briefly sunny in one canyon, and snowing in the next.  Could see 3-6” during the day.  Temps will be in the low twenties and low teens at 8000’ and 10,000’ and winds should remain generally light from the northeast.  The winds may pick up to 20-25mph by late afternoon. 


Wasatch Powderbird Guides got in one run in Cardiff yesterday and are permitted for American Fork today.  For more detailed information please call (801) 742-2800 or go to their daily blog.

If you want to get this avalanche advisory e-mailed to you daily click HERE.
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).

Watch video tututorials and fieldwork from UAC staff at our YouTube channel.

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 Monday morning.