Avalanche experts urge backcountry visitors to be cautious after storms

Oct 14, 2021, 1:54 PM

BRIGHTON, Utah — With all of this early-season snow, it’s tempting for folks to head up to the resorts and take advantage of it. But avalanche safety experts want to make sure backcountry visitors are taking the proper precautions.

“It’s brought our first coat of white paint to the mountain so, of course, the stoke is high,” said Craig Gordon with the Utah Avalanche Center.

At Brighton Ski Resort, people couldn’t wait to get some runs in early in the season.

Sisters Anna and Rachael Eisenberg spent their first day of Fall break at Brighton.

“I was so excited just jumping for joy.” When we started seeing the snow in the valley we thought, ‘Oh we gotta get out there. We gotta go.'”

Gordon understood the enthusiasm but said to be careful. With not much of a base, obstacles are just below the surface.

He says the structural integrity of that snow is going to become weak and sugary, and it’s going to be a bad foundation for more storms to come.

“Slamming into one of the obstacles can end your season just like that,” Gordon said.

Cason Searle encountered some of those obstacles.

“We just took a lap here at Brighton this morning backcountry skiing,” he said. “I only hit rocks once — that’s pretty decent, as far as I’m concerned.

His partner Josie Nordrum got lucky.

“It’s been great — I had my partner get all the rocks away for me,” Nordrum said. “I actually hit no rocks. Looking like this is the start of a great season.”

Is this early snowfall a sign of things to come? Gordon says it’s hard to predict. We’ll see how the next couple of days and weeks materializes.

“If we wanted a perfect world right now it would mean a storm train lined up — a conveyor belt of storms on our doorstep and the door opening to winter saying, ‘Come on in, let’s party.’”

Conditions are always changing, so you’ll want to check current avalanche conditions before you head out at utahavalanchecenter.org.

It doesn’t hurt to learn from the experts as well. There’s an avalanche safety class on Nov. 2. It’s virtual and all about staying safe in Utah’s backcountry.

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Avalanche experts urge backcountry visitors to be cautious after storms