Utah Avalanche Center warns people to stay away from the backcountry

Jan 14, 2024, 5:22 PM | Updated: Jan 15, 2024, 6:36 am

SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah Avalanche Center issued a warning Sunday of extreme avalanche danger throughout most of the state.

“Don’t go into avalanche terrain; just don’t go there,” said Greg Gagne, a forecaster for the center. “It began snowing about nine days ago and pretty much hasn’t stopped snowing in the mountains during that time.”

Gagne said roughly four feet of snow had been accumulated throughout the week, and another two feet of snow came down during Saturday night’s storm. He says it’s the perfect recipe for natural and human-triggered avalanches, which can be deadly.

Gagne said forecasters with the center are listening to their own advice and are staying out of avalanche terrain.

“It’s not very often that we have an extreme danger rating, so that just means that we have extremely dangerous conditions, that’s why we don’t want people in the backcountry,” he said.

Several avalanches have already taken place. The Weber County Sheriff’s Office said two avalanches took place early Sunday morning, blocking the road to Powder Mountain Resort and trapping several cars. Luckily, no one was injured.

The Utah Department of Transportation closed several roads across the state due to impassible conditions and continued avalanche mitigation in Little Cottonwood Canyon.

Mitigation forced Alta and Snowbird resorts to close for the day and the town of Alta into interlodge.

While some resorts were still able to open on Sunday, Gagne said skiers and snowboarders alike need to be patient.

“There’s never a guarantee that you cannot get caught in an avalanche. Right now, the conditions are so dangerous here that snow safety teams at resorts are backing off really far,” he said.

Gagne said, however, that the increase in snowfall will be good down the line.

“This will help strengthen our snowpack going forward. It’s just going to take a while and we’re going to remain at elevated avalanche danger for some time, several days at least,” Gagne said. “We’ll be able to enter the backcountry on its terms, not on our terms.”

The Utah Avalanche Center posts daily forecasts on its website. For more information and tips, click here.

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Utah Avalanche Center warns people to stay away from the backcountry