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Avalanche danger high statewide; traffic delays fail to deter skiers, snowboarders

The Utah Department of Transportation reported major traffic delays on all routes heading to Big and Little Cottonwood canyons Friday. (UDOT)

Estimated read time: 2-3 minutes

SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah Avalanche Center has issued high avalanche danger warnings for nearly every mountain range in Utah as heavy snow moved into the state to begin the new year.

Forecasters said travel in avalanche terrain is was recommended Friday, and avalanches Friday morning in Little Cottonwood Canyon were reported to be running near historic maximum distances. The conditions and warning carried into Saturday with a large avalanche from Scott's Hill along Park City ridgeline.

"The avalanche danger is high at the upper elevations as well as mid-elevation slopes facing west through north and east," the warning for the Salt Lake area reads. "Avalanche conditions are dangerous and travel in avalanche terrain is not recommended on these slopes. Avalanches may break down 4-6′ deep (possibly deeper) and several hundred feet wide."

"The good news is that the dense snowfall and cold temperatures have created excellent riding and travel conditions on lower-angled southerly-facing slopes."

The Utah Department of Transportation also reported major traffic delays on all routes heading to Big and Little Cottonwood canyons Friday. No delays were reported Saturday.

Even though it took a little preparation, Christa Orozco and her husband couldn't pass up the opportunity to head into the mountains.

"Yeah, I feel like, especially after last winter, I think we're all pretty much really excited to get out and get some real snow and some activities in," Christina said.

They braved the traffic Friday to get in some snowshoeing up Big Cottonwood Canyon.

Police turned some drivers around at the mouth and up by Cardiff Fork Road, as the parking lot at Brighton Resort filled up Friday morning.

"We went all the way up the mountain and had to turn around," Kassy Eldridge said.

That put more people on the UTA bus.

"Never seen it this busy before, especially not like all of last year," Harrison Foote said. "Never this busy."

"Takes forever," Cody Shock said. "The bus line and wait — just forever."

Both Cottonwood canyons were also under traction law for much of the day Friday. Still, plenty of people were willing to endure the extra hassle.

"We already took like an hour parking this morning," Foote said. "Take like a 20-minute walk up here just to get to the bus. Now, three buses have passed."

"We'll make it up eventually," Eldridge said.

Still, it wasn't a bad way to end the year, if you were willing to navigate the crowds.

"Even if we get one run in, it's going to be the best run I've ever had, huh?" Foote said.

"Yeah, just got to send it through the trees," Shock said.

Contributing: Ashley Fredde

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