Dawn Patrol Road Closures

| December 7, 2010

If you Dawn Patrol in the Wasatch, you need to sign up for LCC & BCC road closure text messaging information at:


This is the best way to notified about when, where and how long LCC and BCC will be closed in the morning, even if you have already left the trail-head.

Over the past few years the expanding popularity of Dawn Patrolling in the Wasatch has grown into a point of contention and conflict between skiers and UDOT, especially in upper Little Cottonwood Canyon.   Alta at 5:00 am on a dark snowy morning is a  surreal mix of flashing lights, heavy equipment, delivery trucks, airport vans, resort security vehicles and eventually booming artillery. The avalanche gun crews may anticipate shooting the night before or early that morning, but they don’t actually know or start firing until first light and the last thing they want to see in their spotting scopes is a skin track and four headlamps on the slope they want to shoot.  The gun crews have no way of contacting a group thousands of feet up a slope and if they can’t shoot the paths that threaten the road, they can’t open the road, and if the road can’t open customers can’t get to the resorts. A seemingly harmless backcountry tour can shut down Alta, Snowbird and all of the LCC businesses for hours. Aside from the economic impact there is also the fundamental safety concern of mixing human beings, 105 howitzers and large avalanches.  Liam Fitzgerald, Mr. LCC UDOT, said that it has reached a point where if it doesn’t stop, “something is going to have to be done about it.”

If they are plowing, you should probably go elsewhere.

The first step to avoiding conflict is not skin up loaded avalanche slopes in the dark to begin with, regardless of how much fun it might be.  A second option would be to avoid places that get shot, like all of the south facing lines on Highway 210 (Tanners, Maybird, White Pine, Little Pine, Superior, Flagstaff, Emma Ridges, etc.) as well as the Alta perimeter in general.  I’ve never had a problem with DP’ing on Pink Pine out of the White Pine trailhead, but Snowbird or some  lame-ass heliskiing company might be bombing Scotties and take issue with that.  Coalpit #4 and The Y Couloir don’t see much bombing, but you probably shouldn’t be skiing those in conditions that warrant gun control anyway.  Big Cottonwood is a much safer bet although the same issues apply on lines like Argenta and Circle Awl/All.  Parking is almost as big a concern in BCC and the plow crews and UDOT will leave you a nasty note, or worse, if your vehicle keeps the plows from clearing the lots and pull-outs.

Dawn Patrolling in a storm - how to lose friends and alienate people in upper Little Cottonwood Canyon.

Mill D (Tom’s Hill, Powder Park, etc) and USA Bowl in Big Cottonwood, all of  Mill Creek and Mt. Aire in Parley’s are conflict free 99% of the time.

Road closure info can also be found on the Utah Avalanche Center website which can be Twittered to your phoneor subscribed to via RSS feed.  You can even go old school and call for a specific road closure message at 888-999-4019 option 8 to hear the soothing sounds of a human voice telling you the road is closed.

Help support StraightChuter.com and Dawn Patrol responsibly with a Black Diamond Sprinter Headlamp from Backcountry.com. Click on the photo below…


Category: Announcements

About the Author ()

Andrew McLean lives in Park City, Utah and is a gear designer, writer, photographer, ski mountaineer, climber, Mountain Unicycle rider and father of two very loud little girls.

Comments (6)

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  1. Dwyer says:

    The text message subscription link didn’t work for me, but I think this one ought to: http://updsl.org/services/canyonalerts

    Wish I were out dawn patrolling right now…

  2. Andrew says:

    Dwyer – thanks for the updated link. For some reason the old one worked yesterday… then it was changed overnight. Figures. But regardless, it is important to sign up for the messaging, regardless of how you get it – text, Twitter, RSS, etc., and the new link (http://updsl.org/services/canyonalerts) has all of that.

  3. dongshow says:

    “A seemingly harmless backcountry tour can shut down Alta, Snowbird and all of the LCC businesses for hours.”

    This may explain some of the appeal

  4. Lil'C says:

    “I don’t get it, Big Dan.”

    “It’s all about the money, boys!”

  5. LP says:

    Thanks for posting this, Andrew.

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