LOGAN, Utah (ABC4) — As winter weather conditions worsen across Northern Utah Wednesday and Thursday, officials have closed off Logan Canyon above Beaver Mountain.

That news comes as the Utah Avalanche Center (UAC) in Logan issued an avalanche warning this morning.

“Heavy snow and extensive drifting will create HIGH avalanche danger in the backcountry today, with both natural and human triggered avalanches becoming likely,” stated the UAC in a tweet this morning. “People should stay off of and out from under drifted slopes steeper than 30 degrees.”

With winter only officially beginning today, avalanche conditions have already been dangerous across the state. Skiers have been injured and been the subject of rescues in Neffs Canyon and Little Cottonwood Canyon this month alone.

According to the UAC, avalanche debris settles like concrete: If you are buried in avalanche debris, it can be close to impossible to dig yourself out. An average avalanche can travel about 80 miles per hour, while a large avalanche can travel faster than 200 miles per hour.

People caught in avalanches don’t die from lack of oxygen: Even dense avalanche debris is usually full of air. Those buried in snow are more likely to die from carbon dioxide poisoning which collects around their mouth.

For avalanche victims, the first 15 minutes are key: 93% of buried avalanche victims are found alive if they are rescued within the first 15 minutes. After 45 minutes, only 20 to 30 percent are recovered alive.

If you get stuck in an avalanche situation, do the following to increase your chances of survival:

  • Act quickly because once the snow comes to a stop, the debris will harden, making it difficult to move.
  • Try to get off the slab.
  • Try to grab onto a tree.
  • Swim: Human bodies are denser than avalanche debris, but you will need to swim hard to stay above the snow.
  • Keep a clear air space around your mouth as the avalanche begins to decelerate to slow carbon dioxide from building up.
  • Push your hand in the direction that you think is up to provide a visual clue for those searching for you.