Avalanche danger high for most of Utah following string of storms

Mar 1, 2023, 12:53 PM | Updated: 12:54 pm

SALT LAKE CITY — With days of back-to-back snowfall and changing conditions mean some of Utah’s avalanche experts have their eyes on potential closures.

A record year of snowfall that is showing no signs of stopping anytime soon is grabbing everyone’s attention.

“That’s why we come here,” said Tucker Depaola.

Depaola is visiting from Boston. The heavy snow the state has seen is a huge plus for a skier, but it doesn’t mean that state officials aren’t warning visitors of avalanche dangers.

Craig Gordon, an avalanche forecaster with the Forest Service Utah Avalanche Center, said Wednesday’s storm may not be moving in fast, but it could still change the plans of those who want to go up the canyons.

Utah Department of Transportation spokesperson John Gleason added there is potential avalanche control to be done Wednesday afternoon.

UDOT crews busy with avalanche control work, cleanup in Provo Canyon

According to Utah Avalanche Center, the current avalanche danger is falling from considerable to high on most of their map.

“Two to four feet of snow: Lots of water, but that’s all coupled with very strong ridge top winds, so it’s creating dense drifts,” Gordon said.

Add a skier or snowboarder on top, and Gordon said the Utah Avalanche Center has its eye on quickly changing conditions.

“Conditions are gonna change midday because the storm is a little bit late to arrive,” he said

On Wednesday morning, Gleason said a few slides were triggered. One of them hit the road. He said there were a couple that came close to the road.

“With the wind happening right now in the canyon, the wind can shift the snow around and make it unstable. If that becomes the case, then we have to take action,” Gleason said.

Family prepares for avalanche danger, before skiing the backcountry

UDOT said the slides making their way onto the road is what they are trying to avoid happening while the canyon is open.

“One hit the road that was 150 feet wide and about two feet deep across the road, so we were able to clear that,” said Gleason.

If those slides come down when they are not expecting it, they said that is when they can run into trouble.

By noon, SR210 was open. UDOT sent a message to expect uphill travel delays and be ready to change plans with changing conditions.

“I mean, it’s Wednesday. You wouldn’t think there’d be much traffic, but here we are,” Depaola said.

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