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Dangerous conditions remain in the backcountry

West Monitor Avalanche - Park City ridgeline
Utah Avalanche Forecast Center
West Monitor Avalanche - Park City ridgeline

Conditions in the backcountry are still dangerous, especially on north and east and northwest facing slopes. These are the slopes on which snow from early October storms never melted and has since become very weak – and unable to sustain the new snow on top of this faceted layer. If you’re headed into the backcountry to enjoy the new snow that’s coming this week, be sure you know what you’re doing.

The Utah Avalanche Center reports that there were two significant slides Sunday in the Park City area – one on West Monitor and one on Little Water Peak. Mark Staples, Director of the Utah Avalanche Center, said both were up to six feet deep and 700 feet wide.

“That's what we're dealing with,” Staples said. “And the danger on the more north half of the compass, including east and west, is considerable. The likelihood is dropped just a little bit of triggering one of these avalanches. But what hasn't changed is their size and their destructive potential, so we're just not messing with them.”

No one was caught in those avalanches.

In addition, Alta Ski Patrol set off a huge avalanche on Sunday, above the resort, using explosives, in order to get the resort open.

Staples says the video shows how precarious the situation is. He wasn’t sure where the ski patrollers were located when the slide started, but there are cases of patrollers being very close to the action.

“There have been some patrollers at different resorts that have had closed calls lately,” Staples said. “What that just screams out to me is that they work in that terrain. They know that terrain intimately. They know the snowpack intimately. And they’re still having close calls. And when that’s happening that tells me if I’m out in the backcountry I gotta step way back. If the pros are getting surprised, then we certainly can’t expect to do any better in the backcountry.”

While the danger has dropped from high to considerable and triggering a slide has become harder to do, avalanche experts are still recommend staying on south facing or low angle slopes.