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Conditions ripe for avalanches this weekend



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If you're heading out into the backcountry this weekend, here's something to keep in mind: High winds and heavy snow have made the avalanche danger high.

The Utah Avalanche Center says many natural avalanches are happening today and will continue into the weekend, as wind and snow have overloaded the layers of weak snow buried in the snowpack.

The avalanche center is urging that backcountry travelers avoid any slope steeper than about 30 degrees and stay out from underneath steeper slopes. Experts say avalanches can be triggered from a distance, including from below the slope.

There have been natural and human-triggered avalanches in the backcountry every day since Saturday, and the center predicts avalanche activity could peak this weekend.

We've already had one avalanche death this season. It happened Sunday at Snowbird. The avalanche was unexpected because it happened inbounds on a slope that had already been prepared by avalanche control teams.

Heather Gross, 27, was skiing with a group of friends on the upper, eastern edge of Snowbird. She was buried under 5 feet of snow as she climbed to get a lost ski.

This avalanche warning does not apply to ski areas where avalanche control is conducted.

The avalanche center suggests travelers check the latest avalanche conditions by monitoring their Web site, www.utahavalanchecenter.org, or call 888-999-4019.

You can also check for road closure by calling the Utah Department of Transportation's recording line at 801-975-4838.

E-mail: syi@ksl.com

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Sandra Yi

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