With snowfall in the forecast through the weekend and a persistent weak layer present in Utah’s snowpack, avalanche danger is significant heading into the holiday weekend.
The Utah Avalanche Center issued an ‘avalanche watch’ on Thursday ahead of expected snowfall this weekend. Forecaster Trent Meisenheimer told KPCW the watch could very well become a warning as weekend snowfall approaches.
After a string of deadly avalanches already in 2021, including two deaths in the Park City area and four fatalities in an avalanche in Millcreek Canyon last week, Meisenheimer said it’s time for backcountry enthusiasts to take a step back for the time being.
“No matter where you’re recreating in Northern Utah, this weekend, it’s time to pull back, meaning we have to avoid all avalanche terrain,” said Meisenheimer. “That’s any slope steeper than 30 degrees, it also includes being under any steep slopes, so even if I’m in a flat meadow, but there’s a big mountain peak and the avalanche path can come all the way down and catch me down in that meadow, I need to avoid being in that spot too.”
With little snowfall in the first several months of winter, Utah’s snowpack has an extremely weak layer of snow underneath all of the recent snowfall, Meisenheimer said. He added the danger will likely not be going away any time soon.
“Maybe in March it could stabilize, but basically my mindset right now for this winter is I’ve written off all avalanche terrain for the time being,” he said. “I’m not one of the, you know, because I’m an avalanche forecaster, I’m not out there outsmarting this problem, I’m avoiding this problem all together and for right now, my forecast is it’s gonna be that way for the foreseeable future.”
Avalanche forecasts are broadcast every morning on KPCW and full daily forecasts can be found here.