UDOT helicopter crew lowers avalanche danger across Cottonwood canyons

Jan 12, 2023, 3:16 PM | Updated: 3:30 pm

SALT LAKE CITY — Lots of snow this winter means Utah Department of Transportation workers are having to do a lot of extra work in keeping the Cottonwood canyons safe from avalanche danger.

On Thursday morning, there was a very brief closure of Big Cottonwood Canyon — a longer one in Little Cottonwood Canyon on Wednesday — as mitigation work was done by helicopter.

While all of the new snow is a good thing for several reasons, we can expect more of the same in the coming weeks.

As you pass through the canyon for your next ski trip, it’s easy to take for granted the clear roads and safer mountainsides.

“The last couple of weeks in the canyon, we’ve just been getting so much snow,” said John Gleason, UDOT spokesperson.

As Gleason pointed out, this kind of work has to be done to avoid more dangerous, naturally-occurring avalanches, even though on Thursday, it wasn’t quite what they expected.

UDOT performs avalanche mitigation work in Little Cottonwood Canyon on Jan. 11, 2023. (UDOT)

“As it is right now, we didn’t get a lot of results, which is a good thing, because it means that the snowpack is stable and that we’re not going to have any issues up there,” he said.

But Wednesday, they did set off some much bigger activity — snow that plow crews later had to clear from the road.

While it may not look that way from a distance, charges are placed in carefully chosen spots because a planned avalanche is often better than the unexpected.

“And so, we have to do everything we can to make sure that the roads are safe, because there are so many people that are trying to get up there to enjoy themselves: skiing and snowboarding.”

(KSL Chopper 5) (KSL Chopper 5)

Gleason said we should be prepared for those delays, too.

Delays like the one that occurred more than week ago can take some time. Be patient and understand it’s for safer conditions ahead.

The UDOT spokesperson said crews were able to trigger about three to four slides in Little Cottonwood Canyon on Wednesday — one of them measured 13-feet deep.

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UDOT helicopter crew lowers avalanche danger across Cottonwood canyons