Avalanches Closed Little Cottonwood Canyon, UT, For 1,480 Hours Last Season (Nearly 2 Months of Restricted Access)

Martin Kuprianowicz | | Industry NewsIndustry News
Little Cottonwood Road, UT, buried in avalanche debris. Image: UDOT

As a result of record-breaking snowfall virtually all season long, Utah’s Little Cottonwood Canyon experienced an extraordinary surge in closures last winter. One disgruntled observer aptly pointed out, “You didn’t close Little Cottonwood this much last year or the year before, what’s the deal?” The statement reflects the sentiment of many who have been affected by the extensive closures and highlights the noticeable departure from previous seasons along with the record-breaking snowfall this year (Alta: 903″, Snowbird: 838″).

A careful examination of the data confirms that this year witnessed the most substantial closure numbers in the canyon’s history. In an effort to provide insight into the scale of what went down in Little Cottonwood last season, several figures have been released by the Utah Department of Transportation.

The numbers speak for themselves:

  • Artillery rounds fired: 1,072 (An extraordinary quantity, necessitating ammunition restocking on two occasions.)
  • Remote avalanche control (RAC) detonations: 915 (A substantial number, reflecting the heightened avalanche risk.)
  • Hand-thrown explosives: 110 (Significant utilization, indicating the severity of the situation.)
  • Full canyon road closures: 34 (Impacting access between Gate B and Alta.)
  • Avalanches hitting the road: 98 (With 62 avalanches classified as D3 or greater in size, posing a threat to vehicles and wood frame houses.)

Over 900″ fell at the top of the canyon last season. That’s more snow than ever recorded at Alta. For those who endured extensive wait times during road closures, it was for good reason. That much snowfall caused the road to totally close 34 separate times. A cumulative total of 1,480 hours of full canyon road closures translated to nearly two months of restricted access.

Not a single person was injured or killed traveling in Little Cottonwood Canyon during the historic winter of 2022-23 thanks to the brave operators within the Utah Department of Transportation. The ski and snowboard community of Utah extends gratitude to those involved in canyon operations who played a pivotal role in initiating controlled avalanches, swiftly clearing debris, and facilitating road reopenings in Little Cottonwood last winter. Their unwavering commitment and collaborative efforts were indispensable throughout this historic yet challenging season. The tireless work of the canyon crews, who often sacrificed time with their families to fulfill their duties during arduous 16-hour shifts, is deeply appreciated and valued by those who call Little Cottonwood Canyon’s slopes “home.”

As the season draws to a close, Little Cottonwood Canyon reflects upon the unparalleled challenges it encountered this year. These record-breaking closure numbers serve as a poignant reminder of the unpredictable forces of nature and the paramount importance of ensuring the safety of all individuals traversing this wild, snowy canyon.

98 avalanches hit Highway 210 in Little Cottonwood Canyon last winter. Image: UDOT

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