Avalanche Advisory
Advisory: Salt Lake Area Mountains Issued by Drew Hardesty for Thursday - January 4, 2018 - 5:34am
bottom line

A localized MODERATE danger exists on steep mid and upper elevation northerly through easterly facing slopes. Human triggered slides 1-2' deep and 200' wide remain possible and may still be triggered from adjacent terrain or below. Keep your eyes open for the potential for wet and dry loose snow sluffing on the steepest sunny and shady slopes, respectively. The safest and arguably best riding conditions remain on low angle terrain on the sheltered shady slopes.

special announcement

Episode 2 of the UAC podcast has been released. Drew Hardesty talks Avalanche Weather with Professor Powder himself, atmospheric sciences professor and author of Secrets of the Greatest Snow on Earth, Jim Steenburgh. Check it out on ITunes, Stitcher, the UAC blog, or wherever you get your podcasts.

Spend some time improving your rescue skills or learning about avalanches in these upcoming Salt Lake City area classes:

We have discount lift tickets for Alta, Snowbird, Brighton, Solitude, Deer Valley, Snowbasin,and Beaver Mountain. Details and order information here. All proceeds from these go towards paying for avalanche forecasting and education!

The UAC Marketplace is online. The holiday auction is closed, but our online marketplace still has deals on skis, packs, airbag packs, beacons, snowshoes, soft goods and much more.

current conditions

Skies are mostly clear but we'll have some high streamers moving overhead throughout the day. Westerly winds are 10mph, gusting to 15. Mountain temperatures are in the upper 20s to low 30s with temps in the teens at the trailheads. Snow surface conditions are a mix of wind and sun crusts with soft settled powder on the sheltered slopes.

recent activity

Our last reported backcountry avalanches were December 29th in upper Dry Fork in the Alta backcountry and in a closed area of Honeycomb canyon of BCC. For a full list of avalanches, click here.

Longtime observer Mark White demonstrated how weak the surface snow has become by initiating some dry loose "facet sluffs" in No Name Bowl yesterday.

[A quick "pocket guide" description of faceting by Gallatin NF avalanche forecaster (and former Snowbird ski patroller) Eric Knoff can be found here. The technical paper (worth a read) can be found here. Forecasters Brett Kobernik, Greg Gagne, Dave Kikkert, Wendy Wagner and others have all spent a great deal of time watching the facets grow. Learn more about their methods here.]

Avalanche Problem 1
type aspect/elevation characteristics
over the next 24 hours

Observers still note collapsing of the Christmas slab over the weak early season snow below. Our best tools are paying attention to the Bull's Eye clues: recent avalanches, cracking and collapsing and then pulling out the shovel to A-determine if old gray weak faceted snow exists underneath, and B-conduct some snow tests to look at the relationship between the slab and the underlying weak layer.

What's challenging is that each slope must be assessed individually and even then individual slopes may show conflicting information. There's no such thing as expert intuition for these types of issues but we can recognize patterns and trends and habitat. And we can also choose to avoid the problem altogether by choosing 30° slopes or where the poor structure doesn't exist at all.


We'll have mostly sunny skies with mild temperatures and light wind. Temps will flirt with freezing along the ridgetops with 10-15mph winds from the west and northwest. A weak system pushes through on Saturday afternoon that should offer a few inches of snow. Best guess is 2-5". Models suggest another system for mid-week.

general announcements


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This information does not apply to developed ski areas or highways where avalanche control is normally done. This advisory is from the U.S.D.A. Forest Service, which is solely responsible for its content. This advisory describes general avalanche conditions and local variations always occur.