Incoming storms slow Little Cottonwood Canyon traffic; avalanche closures possible

Jan 10, 2024, 11:15 PM | Updated: Jan 11, 2024, 6:10 am

ALTA — Avalanche danger may create a headache in Little Cottonwood Canyon this weekend after the Utah Department of Transportation implemented one of its very first closures of the season for avalanche mitigation work Wednesday.

Residents in the Hellgate section of Little Cottonwood went into interlodge for about 45 minutes on Wednesday morning. Traffic in that section was limited to resident traffic only. Then a few hours later, around noon, the canyon closed for a couple of hours to continue protecting the road from avalanches.

Andria Huskinson, communications manager for Alta Ski Area, said the snow delayed the opening of the resort lifts, though not by much.

UDOT also recommended skiers and snowboarders leave early, because of another incoming storm.

A KSL TV crew drove up the canyon around 5 p.m. and saw a few inches of snow covering the roads which created slippery, slow driving for everyone inching their way down.

Cars slowly drive down Little Cottonwood Canyon on Wednesday Jan. 10, 2024. (KSL TV)

Cars slowly drive down Little Cottonwood Canyon on Wednesday, Jan. 10, 2024. (Lauren Steinbrecher, KSL TV)

It took about an hour to drive from the Snowbird Creekside turnout to the mouth of the canyon.

Huskinson said things will continue to move at a slower pace this holiday weekend, with snow in the forecast on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. It’s possible the canyon could see intermittent closures for avalanche mitigation.

“I think this weekend we might see some more of it. It just depends like what the wind does. The winds were blowing really hard last night; that affects it,” she said. “Moisture content in the snow; that makes a big difference.”

Huskinson elaborated on how the type of snow will have an impact. The snow falling Wednesday was wet and heavy, rather than fine and powdery.

“The heavier snow, more water content — that’s what adds into when they have to do more avalanche mitigation to keep things safe,” she said.

Huskinson said to expect everything to go slow this weekend and make sure vehicles are packed with extra supplies as well as proper tread. The traction law will likely be in effect for both canyons during the storms, just as they were on Wednesday evening.

Alta Ski Area said to expect traffic to be slow-going with potential closures. (KSL TV)

Alta Ski Area said to expect traffic to be slow-going with potential closures. (Lauren Steinbrecher, KSL TV)

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Incoming storms slow Little Cottonwood Canyon traffic; avalanche closures possible