Forecasters warn of elevated avalanche risk with more storm chances on horizon

Feb 24, 2023, 10:07 AM | Updated: 10:34 am

SALT LAKE COUNTY, Utah — Avalanche danger was “considerable” Thursday from Logan to Salt Lake to the southern mountains, and forecasters said additional chances for snow were likely to keep the risk elevated over the next few days.

“Statewide, we’re at a considerable avalanche danger in the backcountry,” said Craig Gordon, a forecaster with the Utah Avalanche Center. “On a scale of 1 to 5, that’s a level 3. That means that human-triggered avalanches are likely.”

According to the center, three slides were triggered at lower elevations on Wednesday and Gordon urged people recreating in the foothills to also check the forecast.

“If we’re headed out for a trail run or a dog walk with more snow coming in, we definitely want to be armed with the latest avalanche forecast for the zone that we plan to recreate in,” Gordon said. “It doesn’t mean that you can’t get out and enjoy this amazing snow, but we definitely want to pump the brakes a little bit and tone down our objectives.”

Gordon urged people particularly to steer clear of wind-affected areas, which were more susceptible to avalanches.

“The good news is this is a very obvious avalanche problem to deal with — you lose the wind, you lose the problem,” Gordon said. “You can get in nice, sheltered terrain where the wind hasn’t affected or ‘loaded’ any of the leeward slopes and generally you’re good to go.”

Those in Big Cottonwood Canyon Thursday afternoon remarked about the incredible conditions they encountered.

“I went out for a little afternoon ski up on God’s Lawnmower and the Kessler Slabs and it was spectacular — as good as it gets,” said backcountry skier John Griffiths.

Backcountry skier John Griffiths. (KSL TV)

Griffiths said he always checked forecasts and made sure he was up-to-speed on conditions but found them to be inviting.

“Anecdotal, but I just skied two known avalanche paths and they skied wonderfully and the snow didn’t move,” Griffiths said.

Angie Cluff said she recently returned from Switzerland and the snow there didn’t compare to Utah’s.

“It’s just day-after-day — like, more and more inches of snow,” she said. “It’s a good time. It’s a great year. It’s an awesome year.”

Cluff said she checks forecasts as well, though she said she tends to stay away from the backcountry and stick to resorts.

Gordon acknowledged more people in the backcountry meant more potential for human-triggered avalanches and he urged everyone to take the proper equipment with them to the mountains and to study the latest forecasts.

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Forecasters warn of elevated avalanche risk with more storm chances on horizon