Avalanche was ‘too close for comfort,’ for forecasters with Utah Avalanche Center

Feb 22, 2024, 4:54 PM | Updated: Feb 23, 2024, 10:09 am

WOODLAND, Summit County — Forecasters with the U.S. Forest Service Utah Avalanche Center had a bit of a scare Wednesday as they unexpectedly triggered an avalanche near the top of a ridge near Mill Hollow Reservoir.

“Oh, cornices! This was a little too close for comfort,” Avalanche Center director Mark Staples said in the video. “We were trying to stay kind of near where the grass and rocks are poking out. I think we were just a little too close.”

Mark Staples speaking about the close call in the YouTube video

Mark Staples speaking about the close call in the YouTube video. (Utah Avalanche Center)

Two snowmobiles were parked feet away from the edge of the slide. Staples was busy in the field Thursday, but another forecaster, Craig Gordon, told KSL why they take those risks.

“We’re getting out there, and we’re doing it very methodically so we don’t put ourselves in harm’s way,” Gordon said. “But more importantly, we want to get the information so the public doesn’t get into harm’s way.”

Gordon pointed out that conditions Thursday were rated considerable, and that while the snow is stable and safe in some areas, there are still sugary, weak layers underneath the thick layers of newer heavy snow.

Craig Gordon showcasing how deceptive the edges could be.

Craig Gordon showcasing how deceptive the edges could be. (Utah Avalanche Center)

“We’ve got a great snowpack. And in most places, it’s nice and thick. It’s deep, it’s robust,” Gordon said. “But we definitely have to step out with caution and realize that it is not a one-size-fits-all snowpack. And that’s what’s still keeping the avalanche danger elevated in many areas.”

Staples added a simple warning at the end of his video as he stood on the edge of the mountain ridge: “We got lucky. Good lesson for us. Stay away from cornices.”

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Avalanche was ‘too close for comfort,’ for forecasters with Utah Avalanche Center