Big Cottonwood reopens after avalanche mitigation; Little Cottonwood remains closed

Apr 5, 2023, 5:46 PM | Updated: Apr 6, 2023, 5:37 am

COTTONWOOD HEIGHTS, Utah — The Utah Department of Transportation has reopened Big Cottonwood Canyon but plans to keep Little Cottonwood Canyon closed until Thursday morning at the earliest due to unprecedented avalanche danger.

According to UDOT, their teams that work in the canyons have never dealt with avalanche danger quite like this before.  

Chopper 5 shot exclusive video Wednesday of the avalanche mitigation work, which we then showed to Mark Staples, executive director of the Utah Avalanche Center. 

“Seeing the video, to me, it really sinks in the volume of snow they have to move,” Staples said.

He said he understands why Big and Little Cottonwood canyons were closed Wednesday for avalanche mitigation.

“One of the very simple rules of thumb we have is more snow equals more avalanches,” he said after viewing the video. 

That’s what’s been happening in both canyons. The video from Chopper 5 shows the incredible size and depth of avalanches that have not only hit the road in Little Cottonwood Canyon but run across the road.

“It just really demonstrates how, with all of the snow we’ve had, it has greased the avalanche paths,” Staples said. “So, even if you don’t have a big avalanche, it can still run really far and really fast.“

The UDOT avalanche crews are faced with more snow than they’ve ever seen before, and slides running in places where they don’t usually see them.

“The situation in Big and Little Cottonwood canyons really is unprecedented. We haven’t ever before experienced this amount of snow, and the avalanche danger hasn’t ever really been this high,” said UDOT spokesperson John Gleason.

On Wednesday, they used a helicopter to drop charges to trigger slides and used a lot of heavy equipment to clear the debris off the roads.

“But a lot of the slides are happening naturally as well over the last few days, and that’s why it’s been so important to keep the canyons closed,” Gleason said. 

“It’s not just the big, huge, dramatic paths; it’s the small, little avalanche paths that historically aren’t the problem. All these little spots are going to cause avalanches,” Staples said.

KSL 5 TV Live


A driver blinks their hazard lights as heavy rain falls over parts of South Florida on Wednesday, J...

Associated Press

Much of US braces for extreme weather, from southern heat wave to possible snow in the Rockies

After days of intense flooding in Florida, that state and many others are bracing for an intense heat wave, while the Pacific Northwest will experience unseasonably cold weather and there is a potential for late-season snow in the Rocky Mountains early next week.

16 hours ago

Signs advertising fresh fruit and vegetables along Box Elder County's Fruit Way along Highway 89....

Alex Cabrero

Utah farmers say a strong winter has led to an amazing crop season

Fruit and vegetable farmers in northern Utah are saying this crop season might be one of the best in recent memory.

3 days ago

Temperatures officially hit 100 degrees in Salt Lake City Thursday for the first time this year, wh...

Lindsay Aerts

Salt Lake sees first 100-degree day, here’s how it’s measured

Temperatures officially hit 100 degrees in Salt Lake City Thursday for the first time this year. The measuring of the temperature isn’t as cut and dry as you might think.

3 days ago

UDOT construction crews working on a project in Ogden. (Karah Brackin, KSL TV)...

Karah Brackin

UDOT crews battle heat while working on construction projects

As double-digit temperatures start climbing into the triple digits and breaking records, construction is still happening.

3 days ago

Salt Lake City officials issued a new warning to escalate the ozone threat in the Salt Lake Valley ...

Andrew Adams

SLC issues summer pollution warning, which experts say is more difficult to escape than the heat

Salt Lake City issued a new warning for ozone pollution levels amid rising temperatures that are supposed to keep going up.

4 days ago

With temperatures soaring, so does the chance for heat exhaustion and heat stroke to set in....

Karah Brackin

Beating the heat as record-breaking temperatures move in

With temperatures soaring, so does the chance for heat exhaustion and heat stroke to set in.

4 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Photo courtesy of Artists of Ballet West...

Ballet West

The rising demand for ballet tickets: why they’re harder to get

Ballet West’s box office is experiencing demand they’ve never seen before, leaving many interested patrons unable to secure tickets they want.

Electrician repairing ceiling fan with lamps indoors...

Lighting Design

Stay cool this summer with ceiling fans

When used correctly, ceiling fans help circulate cool and warm air. They can also help you save on utilities.

Side view at diverse group of children sitting in row at school classroom and using laptops...

PC Laptops

5 internet safety tips for kids

Read these tips about internet safety for kids so that your children can use this tool for learning and discovery in positive ways.

Women hold card for scanning key card to access Photocopier Security system concept...

Les Olson

Why printer security should be top of mind for your business

Connected printers have vulnerable endpoints that are an easy target for cyber thieves. Protect your business with these tips.

Modern chandelier hanging from a white slanted ceiling with windows in the backgruond...

Lighting Design

Light up your home with these top lighting trends for 2024

Check out the latest lighting design trends for 2024 and tips on how you can incorporate them into your home.

Technician woman fixing hardware of desktop computer. Close up....

PC Laptops

Tips for hassle-free computer repairs

Experiencing a glitch in your computer can be frustrating, but with these tips you can have your computer repaired without the stress.

Big Cottonwood reopens after avalanche mitigation; Little Cottonwood remains closed