BIG COTTONWOOD CANYON, Utah (ABC4) -The first storm of the season is prompting a concern in Utah’s backcountry over the potential for avalanche slides. The Utah Avalanche Center says they’re already receiving reports of human caused avalanches in the higher elevations. The first report was issued earlier Sunday in the Cottonwood Canyon, though fortunately no one was hurt.

But Forecaster Greg Gagne of Utah Avalanche Center says it’s a good example of why it’s important for those recreating to be ready for the worst.

“We have a saying that ‘if there’s enough snow to ride, there’s enough snow to slide,'” Gagne tells ABC4 News.

Even in the event of a small avalanche, the risk for injuries is significant. Gagne says, “Underneath that snow is rocks, down timber, tree stumps. If you did get caught even in a small avalanche, you can hit all these obstacles.”

However, it’s understandable that people want to get outdoors and enjoy the essence of Utah’s backcountry, even while ski resorts are not yet open.

With that in mind, the Avalanche Center says that right now, people heading into the higher elevations will need to do their own forecasting to determine if conditions are safe or not.
It’s also best to have a rescue kit that includes a light beacon with fresh batteries, a snow probe and a shovel. Gagne says that it is important to have those materials in the event you’re caught in an avalanche so that rescue crews will be able to find you easily.

Utah is known for some of the greatest snow on earth, drawing people in from across the country, like Dan and Jeff Scheese who are visiting the state on a family trip.

“We planned this trip months ago, and we checked the forecast last week and we noticed a storm coming,” says Dan Scheese of Richmond, Virginia. 

Fortunately, they were still able to hike Lake Blanche before the storm really got rolling. “We hit a little bit of rain about midway through, but once you got to the top, it all became snow and that was really cool,” says Jeff Scheese of Atlanta, Georgia.

Utah Avalanche Center says they are still a few weeks out from their daily forecasting, which will begin mid- to late November.

In the meantime, they stress that while it may only be the end of October, but this storm was just enough to kick Utah into avalanche season.