The avalanche warning for the Wasatch Mountains is rated as considerable which means avoid the back country unless your skills are top notch. A reminder to listeners that the closed resort terrain is considered back country because no avalanche control work is being done.
The new snow arrived with grapple and then a heavy dense snow followed. Trent Meisenheimer with the Utah Avalanche Forecast Center says it should stabilize quickly but for now, suggests people avoid the back country. On Tuesday, they received reports of avalanches releasing from the grapple layer. He says, with this current storm, there are two issues that impact the avalanche danger.
“One is going to be new snow and that’s going to be across all elevations and aspects but probably more dangerous above 8500 feet. Now our second issue is up in the wind zone.”
The Wasatch range has received 10 to 12 inches so far and winds are 35 to 45 miles per hour with higher gusts, which results in wind-loaded slopes.
“Some areas like the Park City ridgeline or kind of Brighton, the backside of Heber/Snake Creek area could have received more snow out of this as they typically do pretty well with these southwest flow type storms.”
Snow is expected through Wednesday and high winds will continue to blow on the ridgelines with heavy snow expected Wednesday night. Avalanches are expected.
“Our bottom line is our avalanche danger is considerable on all upper elevation steep slopes for triggering drifts of windblown snow or wind slabs. And then out of the windblown terrain where there's just new snow that hasn't been affected by the wind, there's a moderate avalanche danger for triggering a soft slab avalanche within that new snow.”
Park City’s popular mid-mountain trail is 8000 feet in elevation and the most serious avalanche warnings apply to terrain above 8500 feet extending up to the ridgelines.
“We are urging our back-country community right now, if you don't have the proper skills to evaluate the snowpack, have cautious route finding and conservative decision-making, stay indoors, stay in place. Brush up on your avalanche skills. We have a ton of avalanche education right online for free.”
Meisenheimer says the danger over the next few days will decrease as the new snow settles out.
A reminder that areas such as Deer Valley and Park City Mountain are now considered back country terrain and are not doing customary avalanche control work due to the closure of both resorts.