Winter busted through the doorway this week in Northern Utah, damn near blasting the door off its hinges by slamming down upwards of two feet of new snow in spots. People dusted off the cobwebs from their ski and snowboard gear and took to the mountains, which had gained 14-26″ of new snow as of Monday morning, according to the Utah Avalanche Center. Remember: any time there’s snow, there’s potential for avalanches.
On Monday morning, three human-triggered avalanches were reported in the Wasatch. They were triggered on:
- Mt. Baldy (Near Alta Ski Area’s famous ‘Main Chute’): 8″ deep, 25″ wide
- High Greeley (Inside the Alta Ski Area boundary): skier caught and briefly carried
- Cardiac Ridge: 150′ wide, ran 250′
All three of these avalanches were triggered on high-elevation North-Northeast aspects. No one was reported injured or hurt.
The skier who triggered the avalanche on High Greeley (video above) submitted the following observation to the Utah Avalanche Center observations page:
“We noticed some small fractures and cracks on our approach and decided to ski in less steep terrain. I dropped in and the avalanche occurred 3-4 turns in from the ridge top. The slope broke off to my left at my ski tips. It pushed me over some rocks before I was able to stop above a tree and let the rest of the slide pass by.”
The UAC stressed that backcountry users ought to keep in mind the following key points when it comes to early-season backcountry travel:
- It doesn’t matter what you’re doing in the mountains-going for a hike, hunting, trying to ski, board, snowshoe, or firing up the snowmachine: be prepared for avalanches
- Triggering any avalanche regardless of its size can produce serious trauma because of a thin snowpack
- Hitting rocks and stumps is a real danger. Don’t end your season early by hitting one of these obstacles
- Treat ski resorts as backcountry terrain and check out the UAC site for resort uphill travel policies
Also, keep in mind that it’s only October—winter has even technically started yet, even if the current amount of snow is skiable. An avalanche in a thin snowpack can reveal rocks, stumps, and other hazards that you do not want to get slammed into, not to mention the damage it could take on your gear. Be safe and be smart out there this preseason, we still have an entire winter ahead of us, with more snow on the way later this week.