Little Cottonwood Canyon Closed Until Thursday Morning At Earliest

Feb 17, 2021, 5:36 PM | Updated: 8:40 pm

SANDY, Utah – More than 80 inches of snow has fallen at the top of Little Cottonwood Canyon over the last five days — much of that in the last 48 hours — and the canyon remained closed Wednesday night due to extreme avalanche danger.

State Route 210 shut down Monday night when the avalanche danger intensified and there is no estimate for when it will reopen.

Utah Department of Transportation crews spent most of Wednesday blasting areas with high avalanche danger, trying to make the canyon safe.

“A lot of snow, and it’s created a lot of instability in the snowpack causing extreme avalanche conditions,” said Shawn Lambert, a UDOT district manager who oversees plowing operations in that part of the county.

Crews spent another day blasting the snowpack, which forced slides down to the road. That kind of control work enabled avalanche crews to release the snow before it builds up to a dangerous depth.

“Once our crews deem that it’s safe to proceed, our maintenance crews will start clearing the snow and all of the avalanche debris,” Lambert said.

That will not happen until Thursday morning at the earliest. Prior to blasting the snowpack, UDOT avalanche crews witnessed a lot of avalanche activity in the canyon.

“Our folks that were up there this morning could hear the slides happening throughout the canyon,” said John Gleason, UDOT spokesman. “The risk of the avalanche, I don’t think it’s been greater. We’re seeing slides that are happening in areas that haven’t been hit in 40 years.”

That included a slide Wednesday morning that buried two UDOT employees. They were sitting in a truck, in an area they considered a safe zone when that avalanche let loose.

“The avalanche, it did broadside the vehicle and move the vehicle slightly. It buried it except for the passenger window, so they were able to egress that way.”

They were shaken up but were OK.

Approximately 1,500 people between Snowbird and Alta were stuck inside during the snowstorm.

“The overall feeling is one of anticipation, and I think excitement,” said Sarah Sherman, communications manager at Snowbird.

She went into “interlodge” lockdown with everyone else Monday night. That prohibits anybody from going outside because it is just too risky with the extreme avalanche danger.

“It’s snowing so much that you can’t go ski,” she said. “But there’s that anticipation that goes throughout it of when it ends and you do.”

People waited Wednesday night for that moment when they can go outside.

“Everybody is excited for the snow, and it’s something we’ve anticipated for a while. We just need to make sure that it’s safe so we can all get up there and enjoy it,” said Gleason.

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Little Cottonwood Canyon Closed Until Thursday Morning At Earliest