Utah is facing its first avalanche warning of this winter season with major snowfalls looming in the weather forecast. And, officials warn, there is likely quite a bit more to come.
This winter has brought some heavy snowfall and cold temperatures to areas all across the US including areas in Utah. This, of course, is a positive for businesses that focus on winter sports. However, these very same conditions could create something very dangerous as avalanche warnings hit the area.
The Utah Area Is Expecting A String Of Avalanche Warnings
Utah officials are issuing an avalanche warning through parts of this weekend along the Bear River, Wasatch, and Uinta mountain ranges. These warnings come with the winter storm conditions that have moved through the area in recent days. And, officials warn of more avalanche concerns going forward as more snowfall is expected to sweep through the area.
According to tot weather experts Utah residents and visitors can expect heavy snowfall and wind over the next couple of weeks. These snowfalls note Mark Staples with the Utah Avalanche Center will have a “really, really weak snowpack” making the possibility of an avalanche that much more prevalent.
“We’re going to see more avalanches,” Staples says. “Before it gets better.”
This weak snowpack, Staples says, is the result of some gorgeous winter days in the area. These days brought some warm weather and clear skies just before the storms took over the area. As a result, the snowfall resembles a consistency of fine sugar.
Additionally, the recent storms brought massive winds with them. Area residents and visitors saw wind gusts of up to 70 miles per hour in the Brighton and Alta ski areas. These winds affected the snowpack in many areas, creating prime avalanche conditions.
Utah Officials Have Seen Concerning Activity Over The Last Few Days
According to Staples, the Utah Avalanche Center has noted several small avalanches over the past few days. Additionally, the expert notes, there have been other warning signs pointing to the development of these dangerous conditions.
“What worries us are maybe not the big, dramatic avalanche paths where expert skiers go,” he explains, “but the smaller, little steep slopes along a trail somewhere,” Staples continues.
“More like for snowshoeing,” he says. “[where someone] doesn’t normally expect to deal with that situation.”
As a result, the Utah Avalanche Center officials are advising travelers to avoid slopes steeper than 30 degrees. The officials also recommend that skiers avoid traveling below slopes that are rated that steep. The officials also recommend that anyone moving through the area carry avalanche rescue gear, making sure they know how to use it correctly.
The UAC is advising that backcountry travelers stay off of slopes steeper than 30 degrees and avoid traveling below slopes that are at that pitch. It also advises that every person in a group heading into the backcountry carries avalanche rescue gear and knows how to use it.