Utah Avalanche Awareness week provides training for skiers

Dec 5, 2022, 2:31 PM | Updated: 3:42 pm

SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah Avalanche Center is asking people to take extra care, as they’ve already seen dozens of avalanches triggered in the past few days.

“Now, since last Monday, we’ve had almost three feet of good snow on top of that, so basically, we had a house of cards, and now we put a lot of weight on top of that, and it’s just waiting on that house of cards to collapse,” Chad Brackelsberg explained.

Brackelsberg is the executive director of the Utah Avalanche Center. He hopes people will be reminded how large and heavy an event can strike with the current conditions after a Saturday’s avalanche in Snowbird.

He pointed out that more than three feet of fresh snow has now piled up on that early season layer that turned sugary and weak.

“This is the layer of concern. Weak-faceted, sugary snow. This was the old snow surface prior to the snow this past week,” Brackelsberg said.

And it’s how easily that top layer can fall that has them concerned.

Chad Brackelsberg showing which snow is causing rescue officials to be considered. (KSL-TV)

That’s why the avalanche center is recommending that backcountry skiers and snowmobilers avoid avalanche terrain until the persistent, weak layer subsides and conditions are safer. That means staying on low-angle slopes, less than 30°, or heading to one of the resorts.

“As more snow piles up, these avalanches are getting larger and larger,” Brackelsberg explained. “And we’re now seeing them up to four feet deep and 300 feet wide, so they can be very, very destructive at that size, and if you’re a human, it’s going to be unsurvivable if you’re caught in one of those.”

Avalanche awareness events going on throughout the state this week. Visit a participating shop to receive free transceiver batteries this week as part of the Batteries for Beacons program. There’s a list of participating shops on the UAC website.

“Whether you are a first-year user, or a 20-year veteran, everybody needs practice. So, it’s a great opportunity for everybody to practice and maybe even learn some new skills,” Brackelsberg expressed.

And with an avalanche-safety event Monday night,  he’s hopeful skiers can come out and prepare for the season together by helping spread the message to go prepared and avoid unnecessary risks.

“So that we can teach people to be safe in the mountains, avoid avalanches, and get home to their families every day,”  Brackelsberg said.

The Utah Avalanche Center is kicking off Avalanche Awareness week at Sugarhouse Park with transceiver practice. The session will run from 4:30 p.m. to 7 p.m.

KSL 5 TV Live

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Utah Avalanche Awareness week provides training for skiers