Snowmobilers Enjoy Holiday, Despite Avalanche Risk

Feb 18, 2019, 6:52 PM | Updated: 9:37 pm

FAIRVIEW, Utah – With a holiday, sunshine and plenty of snow, many avid snowmobilers headed to the mountains, despite the increased risk of avalanche in many of Utah’s canyons and hillsides.

Mike Barton and family members of all ages rode the Skyline Drive Scenic Byway along the spine of the Wasatch Plataeu in the Manti-La Sal National Forest.

The snow conditions haven’t been as good in years, and Barton said they decided to take advantage of the powder atop the mountain.

“We are just enjoying a day off of working on the Skyline Drive with our family,” said Mike Barton. “Lots of powder and lots of open areas to snowmobile and pull the kids around on the sleds.”

The lack of snow early in the season, followed by an abundance of storms in recent weeks, has created a scenario that officials have said snowmobilers need to watch out for.

Of the four avalanche deaths in Utah this year, three of them involved snowmobilers.

Avalanche forecasters said beneath the picture-perfect conditions, the chances of triggering a slide is “considerable” on north and northeast facing slopes, when the temperatures climb above 30 degrees.

“This year has been one of those years when the snowpack started off ugly and it hasn’t healed yet,” said Kerry Nielson, a longtime member of the Sanpete County Search and Rescue. “We’ve got a good heavy snowpack on top of it, so the avalanches we are having now are still going all the way to the dirt. There are plenty of places to bring your family and stay off out of those slopes, and have a great time and do it carefully and safely.”

Even though the avalanche danger is listed as considerable, enthusiasts said you can still enjoy the snow without taking any risks.

“We sure hate to see anyone stay home because they are scared of the danger. Just come and play, and do it responsibly. Do it with the right equipment and gear,” Nielson said.

Those out in the snow appeared to be following that advice on Monday, enjoying the snow away from risky areas and dressing right for the conditions.

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Snowmobilers Enjoy Holiday, Despite Avalanche Risk