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Snowstorms expected to bring increased avalanche danger

Jan 4, 2022, 9:42 PM | Updated: Jun 8, 2022, 5:32 pm

BOX ELDER COUNTY, Utah — Snow heading to the mountains in the days ahead is bringing with it the potential for more avalanches.

Forecasters say there are some especially dangerous slopes out there.

News Specialist Mike Anderson talked with them Tuesday about what they’re asking people to look out for if they’re heading in the backcountry.

All of the fresh powder means a big day for many skiers and snowboarders, but avalanche forecasters say it’s what underneath that can mean big problems off the resorts.

Just within the last couple of days, forecasters shot some videos showing the thick layer building on top.

“This is the persistent weak layer,” Toby Weed with the Utah Avalanche Center said in one of the videos. “But in this area, it’s way down in the bushes. It’s down next to terrain. This is the top of weak layer right here.”

And there’s that early October and November snow below that could cause big problems.

“Over those cold days that became weak and faceted, and that’s kind of making up the base of our snowpack,” Nikki Champion, an avalanche forecaster with the Utah Avalanche Center said.

That means an increased potential for avalanches, starting around Wednesday morning.

“We’ve already been seeing huge avalanches, so we just know, with more snow, more wind, the avalanche danger’s just going to rise,” Champion said.

While avalanche danger is at the considerable level now through much of the Wasatch Front, we can expect that to increase to high.

Of course, it won’t be like that forever.

“We know that, eventually, they will heal, and we won’t be worrying about it as much,” Champion said.

Champion said it’s hard to know when that will happen, but things will improve as we get some more cold temperatures.

In the meantime, she says slopes that are facing the northwest and northeast are especially fragile.

“This is a really similar year to last year,” she said. “We had a pretty similar setup with a lot of avalanches early season, as soon as we loaded it.”

In the meantime, Champion says people in the backcountry should avoid slopes of thirty degrees and steeper, and those north-facing slopes.

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Snowstorms expected to bring increased avalanche danger