UDOT fights to keep roads open as avalanche danger continues into April

Mar 31, 2023, 6:12 PM | Updated: 6:49 pm

SALT LAKE CITY — All the snowfall during the past two days has intensified avalanche danger across the Wasatch Front. Big Cottonwood Canyon was closed for avalanche control for several hours this morning, and Little Cottonwood Canyon did not open until 3 p.m.

Greg Gagne, an avalanche forecaster with the Utah Avalanche Center said the Wasatch mountains will continue to see elevated avalanche danger throughout the weekend, and rising danger early next week when then next storm moves in Sunday night. When the snow keeps coming, so do the avalanches.

“UDOT will make sure the roads are safe before they open them,” Gagne said. With two to three feet of new snow in the Cottonwood Canyons UDOT had a lot of work to do.

“I don’t think we’ve gone any more than a few days without measurable snowfall,” the avalanche forecaster said. “And, lots of snow means lots of avalanches. So, no break in the snowfall means we’re going to continue having avalanches.”

In Big Cottonwood Canyon, a large natural slide hit the road this morning, piling debris 10 feet deep. UDOT worked all morning to
make it safe as the line of eager skiers and snowboarders backed up.

“I think it’s really good diligence to be looking at the forecast before you commute up to the resorts,” Connor McGowan, a ski patroller at Brighton said. He was stuck in traffic for several hours this morning with everybody else, eager to get to work and help keep the slopes safe.

“It’s a little frustrating when I can’t get myself up the canyon because it makes me worry about helping the resort operate, and my work and my employment. So I’d really like to be able to get up the canyon,” Magowan said.

That road opened at noon while Little Cottonwood Canyon Road remained closed until 3 p.m. Neither Alta nor Snowbird opened Friday. They remained in interlodge until the road reopened … that’s when avalanche danger is so high nobody is allowed outside.

Tomorrow, when the sun comes out, more slides are likely Gagne said. “I think we’re going to have some issues with the canyons tomorrow, just due to the strong sunshine and the several feet of snow that we’ve received over the past few days.”

He recommends staying out of avalanche terrain tomorrow, and paying close attention to the forecast Sunday if you have plans to ski or snowmobile the back country. There’s another storm on our doorstep Sunday night that could impact avalanche danger in the mountains early next week.

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UDOT fights to keep roads open as avalanche danger continues into April