Little Cottonwood Canyon closes for midday avalanche mitigation

Jan 6, 2023, 1:53 PM | Updated: 2:01 pm

SANDY, Utah — Traffic lights, headlights and taillights set the scene going into Little Cottonwood Canyon Friday morning as skiers and snowboarders waited.

“Probably about a cool 30 minutes right now,” said Michael Ortega.

The line to get up the Cottonwood canyons may have seemed to stretch a little longer than usual, given the fresh powder and state Route 210 was closed for avalanche mitigation.

“It adds a level of complication when you’re trying to go ski sneaky for a couple hours before work,” said Elliott Mink.

Utah Department of Transportation spokesperson John Gleason said they were concerned about the mid-mountain area on Friday.

During the time that area was closed, UDOT said a howitzer gun was fired to hopefully trigger more avalanches. By doing this midday, Gleason said the goal is to provide a safe way down for people.

“It’s a dangerous situation if we’re not bringing down those avalanches while the canyon is closed, because if the opposite happens and they come down when traffic is moving through there, then the results can be terrible,” said Gleason.

“Anything could happen out here. I mean, especially with it raining out here, it does change a lot of different aspects on it,” said Ortega.

UDOT said dozens of workers are out monitoring the area to keep avalanche risk at bay.

Early to avoid some of the traffic, UDOT is sending out a reminder that overnight camping, car camping and or sleeping in a car overnight in the area is against the rules.

It could also pose a risk.

“Ski resorts have noticed that people have parked in their parking lots. They’ve noticed people parking in the roads, getting in the park and ride, and overnight, it’s not something that’s permittable because of the avalanche risk and because of the watershed issues. So get an early start but don’t camp in your cars,” said Gleason.

UDOT crews originally hoped to clear S.R. 210 by 2 p.m. Friday but tweeted the closure would last into the afternoon.

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Little Cottonwood Canyon closes for midday avalanche mitigation