Skiers revel in powder day while Avalanche Center urges caution
Skiers and snowboarders rejoiced over the deep layer of snow that blanketed the Wasatch Back this weekend. But the storm conditions require caution, too.
The biggest storm of the season so far continued Saturday night, bringing even more dramatic snowfall totals across the region.
Parkites woke up to an abundance of fresh snow Sunday morning, Jan. 14: Deer Valley reported 21 inches overnight, while Park City Mountain measured 18 inches of new snowfall.
The deep powder brought big crowds to the resorts Sunday. Guests said the long lines to get onto the mountain were worth the wait. Snowboarder Carson Geber visited town from Colorado.
“We’ve been experiencing the storm for days now, and this is my third day at Park City. It’s been amazing,” he said. “We’re just chasing the powder and trying to have a lot of fun out here.”
Brandon Enright, who’s staying in Park City all season, took his snowboard out on the slopes at Park City Mountain Sunday morning.
“It was phenomenal,” he said. “The two-hour wait was not ideal, but once we got up there, I got the best laps of the season for sure.”
He said he got in line shortly after 8:00, but lifts didn’t start spinning until around 10:30, once mountain crews finished avalanche mitigation.
Kate Hill, who’s visiting from Tennessee, was out skiing for the first time in her life this weekend, and she said she’s excited about the amount of snow.
“It’s absolutely gorgeous – it’s like nothing I’ve ever seen before,” she said. “I’ve spent my whole life in the South for the most part, so this is more snow than I’ve ever seen in my life combined.”
But though the powder is good news for everyone hitting the slopes, it comes with risks, too. The Utah Avalanche Center said current danger levels are extreme across the Wasatch Back, the highest possible rating. On social media, it warned mountain-goers that deadly and dangerous avalanche conditions are present at all elevations.
THE AVALANCHE DANGER IS EXTREME, EXTRAORDINARILY DANGEROUS AVALANCHE CONDITIONS. NATURAL AND HUMAN-TRIGGERED AVALANCHES ARE CERTAIN. AVOID ALL AVALANCHE TERRAIN.— UtahAvalancheCenter (@UACwasatch) January 14, 2024
DEADLY AND DANGEROUS AVALANCHE CONDITIONS EXIST ON ALL ASPECTS AND ELEVATIONS. pic.twitter.com/W2nCULbIlh
Avalanche danger led UDOT to close U.S. 189 through Provo Canyon from Saturday night until Sunday midday. And wind and whiteout conditions earlier this weekend led Utah Highway Patrol to evacuate U.S. 40 Friday night after close to 300 drivers were trapped in the weather.
High winds have presented challenges to ski resorts as well. On Sunday, Park City Mountain closed three high-elevation lifts due to the wind. More than 20 others faced delays for snow safety.
Park City Mountain ski patrol director Andy Van Houten asked guests for patience as his team works to keep the mountain safe.
“Our team’s out there working as efficiently and safely as we can to get everything open for everybody,” he said. “We do have another 8-16 [inches] in the forecast in the next 12-24 hours, so anticipating more delays tomorrow.”
Deer Valley’s senior communications manager Christine Spinkston said avalanche mitigation has been a priority this weekend.
“Our dedicated mountain operations team is steadfastly monitoring conditions to ensure the safety and optimal experience for our guests,” she said.
She reports “unprecedented demand” at the resort this weekend thanks to the snowfall.
This weekend’s snowstorm is expected to abate before Monday night.