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SALT LAKE COUNTY — Following a big snowstorm overnight, Thursday proved to be a spectacular snow day on the Wasatch Front.
"There's just powder fever in the air," said Bruce Tremper, director of the Utah Avalanche Center. "Everybody is out riding a foot of beautiful powder."
The skiing, snowboarding and snowmobiling conditions are as good as they've been all season — as long as you don't venture into avalanche terrain outside the resorts.
Tremper was skiing out of bounds near Brighton Thursday and snapped a picture of an avalanche triggered by a ski patroller. He then met another skier who was nearly killed by a slide in the same area moments earlier.
"He triggered another avalanche that was 3 feet deep and 20 feet wide, and it pushed him up against a tree," Tremper explained.
But that was small compared to an avalanche that occurred on the Park City ridgeline.
"It was a half-mile wide and it went all the way down to the dirt," Tremper said of the slide. "It removed the entire season's snowpack."
Chopper 5 pilot Ben Tidswell got a birdseye view of the dangerous conditions Thursday.
"We spent most of the day flying around, and discovered quite a few areas that were completely untracked," Tidswell said. "And with more snow forecast, that's going to leave a lot of snowpack that's very ustable."
Tremper advises everyone to take it easy and stick to gentle slopes of 30 degrees or less. A spike in temperatures this weekend means even greater instability.
"Snow is just like people: it doesn't like rapid changes," Tremper said. "So anytime you load weight on top of it, or you rapidly warm it, the snowpack gets cranky — just like people."
The Utah Department of Transportation put a lot of work into keeping Little Cottonwood and Big Cottonwood canyon roads open this week. Over the last two or three days, avalanche crews launched more than 90 shells to trigger avalanches.
Little Cottonwood Canyon closed at 10 p.m. so crews could do some more prevention work in the area, but they plan to have it back open by morning.