‘Enough to ride, enough to slide’: Utah Avalanche Center gives caution to early-season skiers

Weather

(ABC4) – Many have seen winter recreators outdoors and enjoying themselves when early season storms drop a significant amount of snow to ride on. But it is not always fun and games.

As avalanche danger begins to be a more significant issue heading into the winter season, avalanche safety is even more important.

“If there’s enough snow to ride, there’s enough snow to slide. Even though we don’t have a ton of snow yet avalanche danger is already a concern early season”, says Nikki Champion, an Avalanche Forecaster with the Utah Avalanche Center.

Even a small amount of snowfall can pose a risk for the early riders.

This early season snow can not only be dangerous now but when there is a thicker snowpack later on it can create problems down the line for future avalanches.

“All of this early season snow can turn into a weak layer at the base of our snowpack moving into the season”, says Champion.

A weak base will always cause issues later on in the season but Champion also tells ABC4 that understanding the other dangers will be important as well.

“The other big avalanche issues that we deal with are new snow, wind drifted snow, and wet snow. When we get a lot of new snow that can lead to avalanche issues,” she cautions. “So, starting to pay attention to what the snow is doing now and checking the avalanche forecast daily is going to set you up for success when you start getting into the backcountry.” 

Some other things you can do to stay safe when out in avalanche-prone areas are having the right gear, knowing how to use that gear, and being observant of others around you.

The Utah Avalanche Center will host its annual avalanche safety workshop next week. Information on the virtual and free event can be found here.

The Center will also host other workshops and safety events throughout the season and you can find that information on their website as well.

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