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Avalanche danger prevalent in mountains of northern, central Utah

(Winston Armani, KSL TV)

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BIG COTTONWOOD CANYON — The Utah Avalanche Center posted an avalanche warning for all of the mountains of northern and central Utah through the weekend.

Avalanche forecasters want to get the word out that you do not want to take any risks in the high terrain right now. If you're planning to play in the snow, they said it's a great weekend to play it safe.

"What we've got going on is a series of storms, episodes of strong winds, and rapid warming tomorrow," said Evelyn Lees, a forecaster with the avalanche center.

That means avalanche danger will remain high in the mountains through the weekend, and there have already been two slides today.

A natural avalanche broke off 4 feet deep in an out of bounds area on the Park City Ridge. Another human-triggered avalanche occurred on the Manti Skyline in central Utah. No one was hurt in either of those slides.

At Park City Mountain Resort, the parking lot was full as skiers and boarders got a jump start on the weekend fun.

"It's terrific out there," said Andy Miller, communications manager at the resort.

Wasatch Front resorts all got about a foot of snow in the last 24 hours and expect more this weekend.

"Some of the best turns that I've seen all winter out here," Miller said.

And, they're safe from avalanche danger inbounds.

"Our snow safety guys are really on top of things, and making sure the conditions are safe for everybody," he said.

For snowmobilers, the Utah Avalanche Center recommends powder in the meadows, gentle slopes less than 35 degrees, and steering clear of northwest facing slopes with wind drifts.

They are not going to avalanche naturally. They're waiting for a trigger. We don't want that trigger to be a snowmobiler or a skier this weekend.

–Evelyn Lees, avalanche forecaster

"Low angle slopes: I'll be keeping my slope angles to about 30 degrees," Lees said about her plans.

With these kinds of conditions in all of the high terrain in northern Utah, the avalanche forecaster says it's a good time to be very conservative with your choices in the backcountry.

Long dry spells have led to these unstable conditions, the forecaster said. The snow became loose and sugary and now layers are being added on top of it. Another foot fell Thursday night, and our mountains are likely to receive another foot, or more, Saturday night. Friday wind loading is also creating large slabs that are ready to slide.

"They are not going to avalanche naturally," Lees said. "They're waiting for a trigger. We don't want that triggger to be a snowmobiler or a skier this weekend."

Check the Utah Avalanche Center website for the latest conditions, but the danger is not going to diminish until early next week.


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Jed Boal


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