WEATHER

Avalanche danger expected to rise as winter storm moves across Utah

Mar 4, 2018, 7:51 AM | Updated: Mar 6, 2018, 3:03 pm

SALT LAKE CITY — As a winter storm approaches Salt Lake City, avalanche forecasters are keeping a close eye on the back country.

Saturday evening, the Utah Avalanche Center (UAC) listed the danger along the Wasatch Front at “considerable.” By Sunday, the danger could rise to “high.”

“Up along the ridges for the past two days, winds have been cranking, in the 50s, 60s, some places 80 miles an hour.  That’s moving a lot of snow around. It’s putting a dense, cohesive slab on top of our preexisting snow-pack,” said Craig Gordon, an avalanche forecaster at the UAC.

When the avalanche risk is “considerable,” Gordon said human-triggered avalanches are likely. When the danger rises to “high,” avalanches don’t need a human trigger.

“Just one of those weak layers gets overloaded, the snow-pack says, ‘I’m teetering on the edge. I’ve had enough’ and releases naturally,” Gordon said.

Gordon urged backcountry skiers to check the latest advisory at UtahAvalancheCenter.org. He also stressed the importance of being familiar with gear, including avalanche beacons, shovels, and probes. If skiers are uncomfortable with conditions in the backcountry, Gordon said there was an easy alternative.

“A great exit strategy, of course, is to visit one of our world-class resorts where active avalanche reduction work is done throughout the storm,” he said.

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Avalanche danger expected to rise as winter storm moves across Utah