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Forecasters expect avalanches from Utah snowstorm

Weather » Early-season avalanches can be especially dangerous.

First Published Nov 08 2012 02:29 pm • Last Updated Mar 06 2013 11:32 pm

The Forest Service Utah Avalanche Center has begun issuing avalanche advisories for the season, the center announced Thursday.

And with a snowstorm on track for the weekend, forecasters expect to see the season’s first significant avalanches.

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The main problems will occur in places where snow remains from the last snowstorm. Old snow is much more slippery than bare ground so the snow this weekend will likely bond well to bare ground, but avalanches could occur in areas where the new snow falls on old snow.

Since the last snowstorm hit the Logan and Ogden area mountains much harder than farther south, areas of slippery, old snow exist mostly above about 8,000 feet in the Ogden and Logan area mountains and above about 9,500 feet elsewhere. And since the sun melted much of the old snow on the sunnier aspects, the main avalanche problems will occur on the shady, slopes facing the north half of the compass at higher elevations.

Backcountry travelers are advised that early season avalanches are especially dangerous because, with the thin snow cover, there are many more rocks, stumps and other obstacles to hit on the way down and avalanches often travel at freeway speeds.

The latest avalanche advisories from the Utah Avalanche Center can be viewed at UtahAvalancheCenter.org or by calling the toll-free number 888-999-4019.

Backcountry travelers should carry basic avalanche gear such as an electronic avalanche rescue beacon, shovel and probe.

The Center advises backcountry users to get basic avalanche education to recognize obvious danger signs, read avalanche terrain and know what to do if something goes wrong. A list of avalanche classes and tutorial videos is available at UtahAvalancheCenter.org.

Visitors to the website will notice a completely new look and feel. With additional funding from the Forest Service Intermountain Region, several avalanche centers in the region agreed on a unified web design that will be implemented this winter in Utah, Wyoming, Idaho and the Sierra. Colorado and some other areas plan to adopt a similar look for next winter. Visitors to different avalanche centers in our region will have a consistent look, navigation and avalanche advisory format.

In addition, the Forest Service Intermountain Region provided funding for a unified, updated design of signs used at backcountry trailheads and ski area backcountry access gates. These will replace the ubiquitous "Are You Beeping" signs. In most areas, the new signs will continue to feature an automated avalanche rescue beacon checker, which gives both an audio and visual signal when it detects a transmitting beacon. People should start seeing the new signs go up in the next month or so. The signs feature a new avalanche danger icon, which is based on one that has become popular in Europe.

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