Saturday’s snowstorm brings out the skiers, as well as the traffic jams and avalanche warnings

With up to 23 inches of snowfall in the Wasatch Mountains, avalanche center issues “high danger” warning.

(Kolbie Peterson | The Salt Lake Tribune) A storm brought about 3 inches of snow to Salt Lake City, photographed Sunday, Jan. 24, 2021.

Saturday’s big snowstorm throughout Utah proved to be a proverbial double-edged sword.

On one side, the addictive lure of fresh powder enticed thousands of skiers to pack up their gear and go hit the slopes. On the flip side, though, it produced traffic jams in the canyons, more than a hundred accidents on the streets and highways, and an avalanche warning throughout the state.

According to a Sunday morning update from the Salt Lake City branch of the National Weather Service, the Wasatch Mountains south of I-80 saw the most snowfall, accumulating as much as 23 inches between late Friday and Sunday morning, while the mountains to the north got as much as 17 inches.

Not surprisingly, many Utahns took that as an opportunity to go skiing. FOX 13 interviewed several of them Saturday, one of whom succinctly summed up the masses at large within the canyons resorts by noting, “I think everyone is just powder-hungry.”


However, while many were able to feed that hunger, many others went unsatisfied.

Around noon on Saturday, the Utah Department of Transportation’s Twitter feed for the Cottonwood canyons posted that some traffic was being turned around due to high congestion in the area.

And the flood of people looking to hit the slopes continued on Sunday.

Around 9 a.m. Sunday, UDOT noted that “both #SR210 & #SR190 are experiencing high volumes of traffic” and urged travelers to consider altering their plans. About an hour later, it sent out notifications that parking was full at Alta, Brighton and Solitude Mountain resorts, and said would-be skiers should consider trying in the afternoon instead.

Those beat to the punch were left disappointed.

Still, crowding at resorts was the least of many’s concerns.

With the northern Wasatch Front getting up to 6 inches of snow in some spots, per the National Weather Service, and the southern Wasatch Front getting as many as 5 inches, plus the Salt Lake and Tooele valleys getting up to 4 inches in some areas, road conditions were less than ideal over the weekend.

The Utah Highway Patrol told The Salt Lake Tribune that it had assisted with 134 crashes statewide on Saturday as of 6 p.m.

It all culminated Sunday afternoon with what UDOT called a “major accident” that shut down State Route 190 in Big Cottonwood Canyon in both directions.

And that represented only part of the danger.

Over the weekend, the Utah Avalanche Center issued an avalanche warning for northern Utah, declaring that natural and human-triggered avalanches were “likely.”

On Sunday morning, that “high danger” warning was extended to the Provo mountains, along with the admonition: “Backcountry travel not recommended even at low elevations.”

Around 8:30 on Sunday morning, the center sought to drive the danger home, tweeting, “TODAY HAS ACCIDENT WRITTEN ALL OVER IT. THE DANGER FOR TODAY IS CONSIDERABLE. Most avalanche accidents and fatalities occur at this danger rating.”

Meanwhile, the National Weather Service on Sunday afternoon issued a winter storm warning for southwest Utah.

The announcement noted that the heaviest snow is expected during the day Monday in southern Utah, “moving into the Swell / Castle Country Monday night. Best chance for snow in St George is early Mon AM, and again early Tue AM.”

Editor’s note: The Salt Lake Tribune and FOX 13 are content-sharing partners.