SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) — When we think of avalanche danger, we often associate it with avalanche slides happening up along high mountain peaks. However, recent weather conditions in central and northern Utah have created unexpected avalanche dangers in lower-elevation areas, such as the foothills.
According to Dave Kelly, a forecaster with the Utah Avalanche Center, the abundance of low and mid-elevation snowpack is creating avalanche conditions at lower elevations where they are not typically expected. With the first major warm-up of the season, there is a higher chance of avalanches running further and farther.
Areas that are normally safe to recreate at this time of year have hidden dangers due to the unusual weather conditions. The foothills are impacted because there is so much snow up above the foothills and drainages that people cannot see the snow or may not realize it is there.
The National Weather Service sends out avalanche warnings at the request of the Utah Avalanche Center, based on zones and not specific mountain ranges. These warnings are meant to reach everyone, not just those already engaged with the Utah Avalanche Center and its products.
Experts recommend avoiding terrain where avalanches could happen until after this first major warm-up passes, at which point avalanche conditions should stabilize. If you are recreating anywhere with slopes greater than 30 degrees, you are in avalanche terrain, and if that terrain is above you, that snow can come down to you. It is important to always check the latest avalanche forecast before heading out, even if it’s just for a hike along the foothills.