Advisory: Ogden Area Mountains
Mark Staples
Tuesday - April 17, 2018 - 7:39am

Special Announcement

Regular avalanche forecasts with avalanche danger ratings have ended. We will issue intermittent updates for the Salt Lake mountains through the end of April everytime it snows. We will continue to post all observations so please keep sending those in.

Ski areas are closing and each has a different uphill travel policy. Remember that areas open to uphill travel are no longer doing any avalanche mitigation work and must be treated as backcountry terrain.

Current Conditions

This does not mean the end of avalanches. Spring storms and warm temperatures may make avalanche danger rise. If you scroll down, we provide some general avalanche advice to follow for typical spring weather patterns and we provide a series of other links you can use for current conditions and mountain weather.

A full list of mountain weather stations can be found HERE.

Watch this video about things to watch for in the spring.

Avalanche Problem 1: Loose Wet Snow

When cold, dry snow becomes wet for the first time, it almost always means wet sluffs (loose snow that fans outward as it descends).

Larger wet slab avalnaches can happen when melt water percolates through a layered, winter snowpack for the first time especially after 3 days of strong melting combined with no refreeze at night.

Luckily, wet avalanches usually don't last forever because after a few days of percolating melt water, all the layers in the snow disappear and the snow becomes homogenous and dense, turning into a stable summer-like snowpack. Typically, this cycle of instability maturing into stability occurs first on the south facing slopes in early spring, then progresses to the east and west facing slopes in mid spring and finally by late spring, the upper elevation north facing slopes go through a wet avalanche cycle.

Finally, glide avalanches occur regularly in spring as the entire snowpack slides slowly on the ground like a glacier until they suddenly release into a full-depth avalanche. These occur regularly on steep rock slabs and occasionally on steep grassy slopes. Notorious glide avalanche locations include places Stairs Gulch or the rock slabs in Broads Fork, which you should always avoid in spring. Avoid crossing under any slopes with telltale glide cracks in the snowpack. Remember they come down randomly, even at night.

The bottom line for wet avalanches:
Get out early and get home early. Get off of--and out from underneath--any slope approaching 35 degrees or steeper when the snow becomes wet enough to not support your weight. Warning signs may include:

  • Roller balls (pinwheels) in new snow that is getting wet for the first time
  • Natural or human triggered wet sluffs
  • Small sluffs fanning out into larger slides, or running long distances
  • Punchy or collapsing crusts
  • Cornices breaking off
  • Several days of strong melting combined with no refreeze at night

Any of these signs mean it's time to head home, or at least change to an aspect with cooler snow. Remember, even "smaller" slides can be dangerous in high-consequence terrain, such as above a terrain trap, trees, rocks, cliffs or a long, large avalanche path. Plan your trip to have a safe exit back to the car. (You can always click on the "I" button next to the avalanche problem icon for more information.)

Avalanche Problem 2: Storm Slab

We almost always get several winter-like snow storms in April and May. Treat each storm just like you would in winter. Avalanches can occur within the new snow typically from 1) low density layers deposited during the storm, 2) high precipitation intensity during a storm and 3) from wind slabs created during the storm.

It's easy to test the new snow as you travel by jumping on small test slopes to see if they avalanche or just dig down with your hand to see how well the new snow is bonding. Snow can change dramatically in both space and time so never let your guard down. Especially avoid any steep slope with recent wind deposits, which are almost always dangerous.

Practice usual backcountry protocol, go one at a time, never travel above other people and practice all the usual risk reduction measures and low-risk travel ritual you learn in avalanche classes.

General Announcements

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This information does not apply to developed ski areas or highways where avalanche control is normally done. This advisory is from the U.S.D.A. Forest Service, which is solely responsible for its content. This advisory describes general avalanche conditions and local variations always occur.