Experts say Wednesday’s storm is a ‘recipe’ for more avalanche risk

Jan 4, 2022, 5:00 AM
Pfeifferhorn Avalanche...
Utah avalanche forecasters are watching Wednesday's storm saying it could be a recipe for more avalanche risk. FILE: Photo credit: Canva

WASATCH FRONT, Utah — Utah avalanche forecasters are watching Wednesday’s storm because they say it will come in “upside down,” — where the storm starts cold and turns warm, putting warm dense snow on top of lighter snow.

That’s a formula ripe for avalanches, Utah Avalanche Center said late Monday.

Typical storms, the Center said, start warm then get colder leaving lighter snow to fall on top of the heavier, warmer snow.

“What we’re looking at with this storm is going to be upside down,” Director of the Utah Avalanche Center Mark Staples told KSL Newsradio about Wednesday’s storm. “So, it’s going to start out a little colder and as the storm progresses it’s going to warm up — so it’s going to put some warmer, dense snow on top of lighter snow. That alone is a recipe for avalanches.”

Staples says there have been 54 avalanches reported since just before Christmas, a number he thinks is actually low.

“I’d feel comfortable saying there have been at least twice that number.” Staples said. 

Staples says another concern he says is just how deep and wide the slides have been.

“Some of that snow we had in December was pretty warm and wet and cohesive.” Staples said. “It’s breaking very deeply and breaking very wide.”

A large avalanche broke Sunday afternoon in a popular backcountry area up Millcreek Canyon. No one was injured despite fears there were people nearby when ski tracks were found in the area.  

Staples called that slide a “freebie.” 

“Mother Nature is showing us what’s going on, so we shouldn’t ignore it.”

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Experts say Wednesday’s storm is a ‘recipe’ for more avalanche risk