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Avalanche risk currently high in Utah, experts say

(Elizabeth Pratt)


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Estimated read time: 1-2 minutes

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BIG COTTONWOOD CANYON — After nearly a dozen human-triggered avalanches in Utah since Friday, experts are issuing warnings about venturing into the backcountry.

"We're most worried about the slopes that face the north half of the compass: the north facing slopes, plus east and west facing slopes," said Bruce Tremper, director at the Utah Avalanche Center.

Yesterday there was even an avalanche in one in-bound area at Alta Ski Resort where three people were partially buried.

Fortunately everyone survived, but the Utah Avalanche Center warns of more potential slides.

"People need to remember about this weak layer is its persistently unstable, it's going to last for many days," Tremper said.

The "weak layer" is the layer that sits below recent snowfall.

"It's over-loaded with this snow, and people get onto it and it collapses the weak layer and creates these very large avalanches," Tremper said.

Even with the danger, some are still taking their chances

"I stay with friends, just careful," said 13-year-old snowboarder Kenny Kocherscheidt.

"I think he knows enough, we taught him what to do and not to do and I believe he respects, there is always a risk but its minimal," said Kenny's mother, Sendrine.

One thing that lures people to the backcountry is the sun. But Tremper says most avalanches are triggered the first nice day after a storm.

"Just because it's sunny and nice, it doesn't mean it's safe," Tremper said

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