Experts prepare outdoor enthusiasts for avalanche rescue as dangerous conditions persist

Dec 5, 2023, 11:07 AM | Updated: 12:50 pm

SALT LAKE CITY — Northern Utah’s mountains are under a high avalanche danger warning, including closures of parts of Big and Little Cottonwood Canyons.

Forecasters with the Utah Avalanche Center said several inches of snow accumulated on a weak, melting foundation and are recommending people stay out of the back country for now. The center said some people were caught and carried in slides over the weekend and they are using education in an effort to prevent tragedies this winter.

“Winter has been slow to come, but it did really hit hard this weekend,” said Chad Brackelsberg, Utah Avalanche Center’s executive director. He said the new snow is not on a firm foundation.

“We put about 50 inches of snow on top of a house of cards.”

In Sugar House Park, the experts helped train enthusiasts on how to use a beacon and track people caught in a slide. They hope the skills become second nature for people exploring Utah’s backcountry.

It is possible this winter could see more slides because of last year’s record-breaking number of avalanches because it changed the landscape of the canyons. Those slide paths make conditions even worse.

“They don’t have something to slow the snow down to hit the road,” Brackelsberg said. “So they might also be more apt to hit the road.”

Learning how to handle emergency situations is key.

“Make sure that they’re ready in case tragedy does strike their group.”

The avalanche experts say northern Utah will be under dangerous conditions for another couple of days and outdoor enthusiasts can expect closures up both cottonwood canyons.

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Experts prepare outdoor enthusiasts for avalanche rescue as dangerous conditions persist