Low snow, but avalanches are still a ‘go’

Local News

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (News4Utah) –  Salt Lake City has kicked off 2018 with very low snow pack numbers, but that doesn’t mean the avalanche threat isn’t real. There have been two dozen human triggered avalanches in just the last few days. Our avalanche conditions are fluid this winter, but the long periods in between storms have definitely impacted the greatest snow on Earth.

“It’s a shallow, lean thin snow pack. Right now, it’s a house of cards, it’s like a bunch of dominos stacked up, we put a slab on top of that, all we need to do is flip those dominos and we are off to the races,” Craig Gordon of the Utah Avalanche Center said.

Since our last storm, we’ve seen two dozen human triggered avalanches with about six causing extremely close calls and partial burials. Finding safe terrain in the high country has proven difficult this year, even several sunny days after a storm.

“There was a nice crust on top. Probably 5 cm thick, really hard to punch through. It made it a little sketchier on that steeper terrain,” Park City skier, Christopher Hendrickson said.

Our lackluster amount of snow as well as major breaks in between storms created a very sugary, shallow base layer of snow. When we add heavy, wet snow to that weak layer, it’s very easy for slides to be triggered and occur. There are different parts of our mountains that are more dangerous than other as well. 

“It’s not the sunny slopes where the danger lies.It’s the north half of the compass. The sun isn’t penetrating those slopes, the hazard remains elevated on steep slopes especially those that face the north half of the compass,” Gordon said.

With an active storm pattern coming, just be prepared for the avalanche threat to increase and that will be the case for the rest of the winter.

“This is the type of snow pack where every time we put a storm on top of it, the snow pack is going to react, we are going to see an avalanche cycle,” Gordon said. 

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