Forecasters Caution About Increasing Avalanche Risk

Feb 3, 2019, 8:29 PM | Updated: Feb 4, 2019, 1:56 pm

BIG COTTONWOOD CANYON, Utah—Forecasters were cautioning Sunday about increasing avalanche risk in the coming week following a series of storms.

After the first storm had pushed through Saturday into Sunday, close calls with avalanches had already been reported in Santaquin Canyon in Utah County and at least two small triggered avalanches had been surveyed in upper Big Cottonwood Canyon.

Utah Avalanche Center forecaster Craig Gordon said most backcountry areas statewide had avalanche danger rated “considerable” or “high” on Sunday.

“It’s really reactive to the additional weight of a skier, a boarder or a sledder this morning,” Gordon said of the conditions in Big Cottonwood Canyon.

Gordon said after an expected “main event”-type storm pushed through Monday into Tuesday, the risk would grow later in the week, “meaning that human-triggered avalanches are likely and natural avalanches are likely as well.”

Gordon urged those heading to the backcountry to check the forecast (https://utahavalanchecenter.org/) and to take experienced partners with them.

He also said people should take essential gear, including avalanche beacons, shovels and probes.

Dan Noll said he and two friends headed to the Benson and Hedges Couloir early Sunday.

“We ended up turning around just near the top of it due to the conditions,” Noll said. “We didn’t feel too good about it, so (we) made a group decision to come back down. We had some great riding.”

Noll said he is always wary of the potential avalanche danger.

“My friend kind of got caught last year,” he said. “Pretty small avalanche, but yeah.”

He also encouraged those heading to the backcountry to know the forecast and not be afraid to turn back if the conditions appear too treacherous.

“You should know what you’re doing if you come out here,” Noll said. “It’s very easy—especially in the Wasatch—to have a really safe, fun experience.”

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Forecasters Caution About Increasing Avalanche Risk