Rising avalanche danger expected with upcoming storm

Outdoor adventurers are seen in Little Cottonwood Canyon Sunday. Avalanche danger may increase this week, forecasters say.

Outdoor adventurers are seen in Little Cottonwood Canyon Sunday. Avalanche danger may increase this week, forecasters say. (Greg Anderson, KSL-TV)


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SALT LAKE CITY — While skiers and ski resorts celebrate early snow, forecasters are warning Utahns about an avalanche risk later this week.

"I think we're going to expect a rising avalanche danger with what may be the most significant storm we've seen by midweek," said Drew Hardesty of Utah Avalanche Center forecaster.

Hardesty described the most recent round of storms.

"We picked up almost a foot of snow in the upper regions of the Cottonwoods," he said. "It was heavy, wet and dense, falling on lower-density snow. Strong winds as well."

He said people going into the backcountry should check the avalanche forecast and always bring a beacon, probe and shovel.

"We have an avalanche danger rate that's 'considerable' in the upper elevations," Hardesty explained. "We're telling people to avoid the steep, wind-drifted slopes on steep terrain."

He said since October, the area has had about 60 inches of snow, plus strong winds. He said the next round of storms could bring 20-30 inches.

"A lot of times when you see heavy, wet, dense snow coming on top of lower density snow, it creates upside down avalanche conditions that could be prone for triggering by backcountry skiers and riders," Hardesty said.


We're telling people to avoid the steep, wind-drifted slopes on steep terrain.

–Drew Hardesty, Utah Avalanche Center


A lot of people took advantage of the snow Sunday before resorts opened, including University of Utah student Sage Boyer.

"The snow is insane, it's not like anything I've skied," Boyer said. "Light, fluffy, the best feeling in the world."

He said he always travels to the mountains with his rescue gear and checks the center's avalanche forecast ahead of time.

"Stay safe, there's a lot of equipment you need to use: shovel, beacon, probe is a must. A lot of intelligent people that you're with is needed as well," Boyer explained.

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He said he's enjoying the early season snow but is being cautious about where he recreates.

"It seems like we have a good cycle coming here," Boyer said. "People are saying we're going to accumulate 40 (inches) by the end of this cycle, so hopefully that happens, but you never know."

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