LOCAL NEWS

Avalanche Watch Issued For Utah Backcountry

Jan 27, 2021, 11:13 PM | Updated: 11:41 pm

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – High winds ahead of a snowstorm heading to Utah are making for some dangerous avalanche conditions.

The National Weather Service has issued an avalanche watch for Utah’s backcountry, but Utah Avalanche Center officials said conditions will worsen over the next few days.

Phil Santala is an avid backcountry enthusiast who has skied those areas in Utah for 12 years and survived an avalanche two years ago.

“The first turn was glorious champagne snow, you know, the greatest snow in the world, whatever the license plate says,” Santala said. “The second was terrifying. I didn’t see daylight again after I grabbed onto that tree. I got pulled off and knocked backward and everything was just sort of like being whitewashed, like when you’re a kid and somebody’s pushing your face in the snow.”

He got lucky that day. After tumbling 500 or more feet, he popped out at the bottom of the slide, on top. He said if that happened this year, it wouldn’t have the same ending.

“We’ve got a way different picture out there this year with this persistent weak layer, where if you pull down that new snow, it’s gonna step way down to that old snow and you’re gonna get big, unsurvivable avalanches,” said Craig Gordon, an avalanche forecaster with the Utah Avalanche Center.

Gordon said this year’s conditions are “like a house of cards.”

“All we need to do is roll along, kick the legs out from underneath it and then the entire roof the entire log pile is crashing down on top of us,” he said.

Santala closely watches the Utah Avalanche Center website to monitor conditions and to read incident reports. He believes everyone heading out should be doing that too. But his advice for beginners and for experts like himself is to be patient and wait until conditions are more stable.

It could be matter of life and death.

“In a month we will be in a low probability, high consequence situation. If you trigger an avalanche it’s gonna be big. It’s gonna be unsurvivable,” he said.

You can check out avalanche conditions here.

KSL 5 TV Live

Top Stories

Local News

FILE - Thousand gather at the Utah State Capitol to support a woman's right to choose. (KSL TV)...
Daniella Rivera

‘It was hastily passed’: Medical, legal experts raise concerns about Utah’s abortion trigger law

Senate Bill 174, passed by the Utah Legislature in 2020, was crafted, in part, to send a message. Now, medical and legal experts are sounding alarm bells about how it will work in practice.
15 hours ago
FILE: This photo from May 2022 shows a southward view of Cache Valley from Utah State University's ...
Josh Ellis

Utah State flight instructor, student killed in plane crash

Two people have died after a Utah State University aviation program plane crashed in the southwest part of Cache County.
15 hours ago
The Utah Capitol. (KSL-TV)...
Josh Ellis

Utah ‘trigger law’ banning abortion to go into effect after Roe v. Wade overturned

A Utah law prohibiting almost all abortions will now go into effect after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade on Friday.
15 hours ago
FILE - Credit and deposit cards on a computer keyboard. Electronic commerce, business. Online shopp...
Matt Gephardt

Gephardt Busts Inflation: Americans shy away from using credit cards abroad, missing out on best exchange rates

As COVID-19 wanes, travel agencies are seeing a massive spike in bookings as folks look to spread their wings and travel abroad.
15 hours ago
...
Matt Rascon

KSL+: The impact and lessons of teen driver crashes

Teen drivers make up 9% of licensed drivers in Utah but 21% of crashes, according to the Utah Department of Transportation.
15 hours ago
...
Andrew Adams

Fast-moving, powerful thunderstorms catch some Utahns by surprise

A round of fast-moving thunderstorms battered the south end of the Salt Lake Valley during the evening commute Thursday, catching drivers and homeowners by surprise.
2 days ago

Sponsored Articles

hand holding 3d rendering mobile connect with security camera for security solutions...
Les Olson

Wondering what security solutions are right for you? Find out more about how to protect your surroundings

Physical security helps everyone. Keep your employees, clients, and customers safe with security solutions that protect your workplace.
Many rattan pendant lights, hay hang from the ceiling.Traditional and simple lighting....
Lighting Design

The Best Ways to Style Rattan Pendant Lighting in Your Home

Rattan pendant lights create a rustic and breezy feel, and are an easy way to incorporate this hot trend into your home decor.
Earth day 2022...
1-800-GOT-JUNK?

How Are You Celebrating Earth Day 2022? | 4 Simple Ways to Celebrate Earth Day and Protect the Environment

Earth Day is a great time to reflect on how we can be more environmentally conscious. Here are some tips for celebrating Earth Day.
Get Money Online...

More Ways to Get Money Online Right Now in Your Spare Time

Here are 4 easy ways that you can get more money online if you have some free time and want to make a little extra on the side.
Lighting trends 2022...

Lighting Trends 2022 | 5 Beautiful Home Lighting Trends You Can Expect to See this Year and Beyond

This is where you can see the latest lighting trends for 2022 straight from the Lightovation Show at the Dallas World Trade Center.
What Can't You Throw Away in the Trash...

What Can’t You Throw Away in the Trash? | 5 Things You Shouldn’t Throw in to Your Trash Can

What can't you throw away in the trash? Believe it or not, there are actually many items that shouldn't be thrown straight into the trash.
Avalanche Watch Issued For Utah Backcountry