WEATHER

First Snows Bring Early Skiers As UDOT Watches Roads

Oct 9, 2018, 4:04 PM | Updated: Oct 10, 2018, 1:30 am
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BIG COTTONWOOD CANYON, Utah – With the first snowfall decorating the mountain peaks of the Wasatch Front this past weekend, and more snow on the way, some die-hard Utahns started on the earliest possible snow riding season Tuesday, while UDOT road crews prepared for plowing.

Depending on where you measure, there’s anywhere from a half-foot to a foot of settled snow near the top of Big Cottonwood Canyon, with flurries in the wind Tuesday afternoon. UDOT is keeping Guardsman Pass closed for now, which is just fine for early season skiers.

“As soon as we see it coming down.” That’s how avidly Adam Smith and his friends pursue the autumn snow. We caught up with them on a secluded slope in the backcountry.

“We just like to chase it around as early as we can,” said Smith.

He and his friend, Ryan Stonecipher, carried their own rail into the snowy backcountry slope. Both of them are midwestern transplants in the last few years, eager to get the skiing season started with the first few inches of snow of the season.

“We’re getting some early-season turns in,” said Smith. “Starting to practice before the resorts open.” And, looking forward to the promise of more snow.

UDOT is already in winter mode.  They’ve been plowing up in the canyons since the weekend.

“Heavy snow on the roads. One to two inches an hour,” said Jake Brown, UDOT road operations manager, who supervises the plow crews in Big and Little Cottonwood Canyons.

“It’s been difficult to keep the road open,” he said, referring to Guardsman Pass, which they’ll keep closed for several more days.

“It’s become a safety issue” he said.  “That’s why we closed it.”

The high-elevation, seasonal road is too exposed and too narrow for road crews to plow when it is slick with ice and snow.  He said, a growing number of people use Guardsman Pass to commute back-and-forth from Salt Lake County to Wasatch and Summit Counties.  Others simply enjoy the road for a drive through the mountains, or to reach hiking trails.

“A scenic shortcut,” said Brown.

So, UDOT tries to keep it open until it is unsafe.

“Safety is our number one priority at UDOT, and we don’t want to see anybody go off the road,” said Brown.

UDOT does anticipate re-opening the pass again, weather depending, before closing the seasonal road for winter Nov. 1.  As for Wednesday, plow crews plan to be pushing snow in the canyons about 4 a.m.

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First Snows Bring Early Skiers As UDOT Watches Roads