SANDY, Utah (ABC4) — Big and Little Cottonwood Canyons were closed this morning due to ongoing high avalanche danger. While Big Cottonwood Canyon has since reopened, Little Cottonwood Canyon remains closed with no ETA for reopening.

The rapid snowmelt on the surface of the snowpack has caused dozens of natural avalanches to occur over the weekend, impacting both Cottonwood Canyons.

John Gleason, the UDOT Public Relations Director, describes the impact of natural avalanches on the roadways, saying, “It essentially turns it into a lava flow and comes down the mountain, we’ve actually seen the past couple of days in both Big and Little Cottonwood Canyons where the slides have come down to the road.”

The difference between this avalanche danger and previous concerns is that the rapid snowmelt on the surface of the snowpack is causing wet slides, which are just as dangerous as the rapidly accumulating snowfall from the previous storm.

Big Cottonwood Canyon was closed from 11 am this morning through 4 pm today, a schedule that is expected to stay in place through Thursday. Little Cottonwood Canyon briefly opened this morning to essential travelers but is now closed with no ETA.

The town of Alta and the resorts have been adapting to the changing road conditions caused by the avalanche danger. Alta Ski Area has had to limit the terrain available to ski on with reduced staff, and live ins have been brought in to reduce the number of people coming up and down the road. The town of Alta is preparing for the worst and hoping for the best, with contingency plans in place for the possibility of huge wet slides.

As even hotter temperatures are expected tomorrow, the threat of more natural slides will likely remain. John Gleason notes, “As long as there’s that chance of these slides coming down and hitting the road, we have to make sure that we’re closing the canyons during those periods of time.”