Wild Weekend in Store for the Wasatch Mtns

| December 19, 2008

Rat-a-tat-tat, hang on to your hat!  There’s going to be some very wide spread and dangerous avalanche activity in the Wasatch Mountains today and this weekend.

One of my favorite snow stability comments comes from Bob Athey – “When it comes to snow, it all depends.”  If there’s no loose snow to transport, then high winds are not necessarily that bad.  Sometimes 30″ of new snow can be very stable.  Shallow snowpacks are generally weak… but not always.

And then there are times like this where all of these elements come together and go in the opposite direction to create a VERY dangerous snowpack – high winds blowing lots of light density snow onto a weak, shallow snowpack with a variety of slick crusts buried in it.  And lots of powder starved skiers/triggers.

The avalanche danger rose from today – that’s a whole lotta red!

Bruce Tremper of the Utah Avalanche Forecast Center issued today’s advisory, which is noteworthy as it is only a few times per year (hopefully no more) that the danger jumps up this high.  “Extreme” avalanche danger is very rare and may only happen once a year, if that, so to see this much red (High danger) over so many aspects and elevations says something about the conditions.  Having forecast for the Wasatch Mountains for decades, Bruce’s assessments always seem very accurate, at least to me.  If we get a ton of new snow, but it is stable, Bruce will give you the straight scoop.  Conversely, if Bruce mentions wid-spread high-danger, I’d pay attention.

Kitchen window forecasting: lots of wind and transport, and this isn’t even a very windy spot. The mountains are going to be rocking.
I still get out on days like these, but more in a manner of practicing extremely safe route finding rather than looking for good turns.  In conditions like these, if it is steep enough to ski, it will probably be steep enough to slide.
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Category: current conditions

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 (1)

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  1. Hart says:

    tomorrow the west slopes of the cascades are going to be extremely dangerous too. high avy danger above 4,000 most of the day as this blizzard rolls through with 50-70 mph winds. i was hoping to get out in it too but no one i ski with is interested. i’m not heart broken either really as it’s going to be one of those scary as shit days.

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