Expect Avalanches In Wasatch Back Country

Mar 25, 2019

Credit Utah Avalanche Forecast Center
Credit Drew Hardesty-Utah Avalanche Forecast Center

It’s springtime. March sun, warming afternoons, winter snow conditions one minute, then on a dime, it turns to spring weather. The season brings quick, spiking changes to Utah’s avalanche terrain.

For people who like to recreate in the back country this time of year, conditions change rapidly and anyone heading out of the resort boundaries is advised to pay close attention to the conditions. Utah Avalanche Center Forecaster, Drew Hardesty, says avalanches are certain to occur based on Monday’s and Tuesday’s weather forecast.

“But, you know, things stabilize fairly quickly in the afternoon. You know the spring weather in the spring instability can spike rapidly and then just diminish just as rapidly. And with temperatures rising into the 50s in the mountains and generally light winds and that high March son, the danger is easily going to rise to considerable so certainly wet loose and wet slab avalanches will be certain with daytime highs and so just recommending people to avoid being on or beneath that terrain that becomes wet and unstable.”

Hardesty says six people in the Cardiff Fork and Cardiac Bowl in Big cottonwood Canyon, were carried by a slide on Sunday that was triggered when they were climbing on a previously cut trail.

“The most notable of which was up in Cardiac Bowl. This was on the back side of Superior. The starting zone was up at around 10,00 maybe 700 feet, northeast facing. It's the Dragon's Lair. It's amazing terrain but the party of six found themselves there at the height of instability. Six people in for a ride. A couple of people I think went for maybe six or 700 foot ride in the avalanche. The others didn't go quite as far. Two of them were buried, I think, up to their necks maybe one to the chest one to the neck. Two people suffered non-life-threatening injuries. I think there's a dislocated shoulder. So that's significant and notable avalanche incident.  Yesterday there was one other very experienced backcountry skier that went for, not one, but two rides in an avalanche.”

Hardesty says the folks leaving the ski areas to access the side country, will find considerable avalanche danger.

“There’s still lingering instabilities on the shady side of things that should probably stabilize out entirely by the afternoon. The word avalanche is going to be the main player.”

Hardesty suggests that people going into the back country visit their website at https://utahavalanchecenter.org/ . He also urges folks to make conservative choices when picking slopes to ski or ride.