Utah’s winter sports enthusiasts may have been praying for fresh snow storms. Now, they might be wise to light a candle to survive them.
Anticipating arrival Thursday of what was expected to be a series of storms extending through the weekend, the U.S. Forest Service’s Utah Avalanche Center issused a Backcountry Avalanche Watch. The advisory covers all the mountains of northern Utah, the western Uintas and the Wasatch Plateau.
"A winter storm with an extended period of snowfall, intensifying west wind and gradually warming temperatures will overload existing weak layers of snow," avalanche forecaster Brett Kobernik warned. "This will create dangerous avalanche conditions in the backcountry."
Of special concern was drifting snow throughout Thursday and overnight into Friday morning, when elevated risks for potentially deadly snowslides were expected.
The watch area did not include ski resort slopes where regular avalanche control work is done.
Even before the storms hit, forecasters had rated avalanche risk as "considerable" for the mountains above Logan and Moab, as well as the Uintas; the remainder of the state’s backcountry earned "moderate" grades — but the risk estimates were expected to rise as the weekend approached, along with predicted snowfall accumulations of up to 4 feet.
On Wednesday, four human-triggered , non-injury avalanches were reported. Near Mount Superior in Big Cottonwood Canyon, two skiers were caught a carried a short distance by a slide; a snowboarder was caught and carried a short way by another slide in the White Pine area of Little Cottonwood Canyon; and other avalanches were reported in the Porter Fork and Little Water Peak areas.
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