At Utah ski resorts, snow is harder, faster, icier, says avalanche expert

Feb 17, 2022, 3:48 PM

FILE: A fresh powder day at Alta. Photo: Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — Since the beginning of the month, three skiers died at three different Utah ski resorts. 

  • Henry Kendell, of Millcreek, 14, died Feb. 14 after an accident at Alta Ski Resort.
  • A 35-year-old skier died Feb. 11 after a collision at Snow Basin Ski Resort.
  • Dr. Andrew Gagnon, 38, of Cottonwood Heights and an Intermountain Healthcare surgeon, died Feb. 3 after falling down a 100-foot cliff at Solitude and continuing to slide several hundred feet.

Is there something that skiers should know about? KSL NewsRadio’s Dave Noriega and Debbie Dujanovic spoke with Craig Gordon of the Utah Avalanche Center to find out.

He shared his insight on the conditions skiers can expect now when they visit the slopes, and the weather ahead to watch out for. 

Conditions are harder, icier, and faster

The snow conditions at ski resorts are “a little harder, a little icier and, of course, it’s going to be a little faster than what we are used to seeing here in Utah,” Gordon said.

“So much of this, the ski tragedies — it seems to be in the backcountry. The fact that we’re seeing it on these slick, fast trails — collisions, running into each other. Can you walk us through that a little bit about some of the safety measures, good rules to avoid collisions, stuff like that?” Dave asked.

“It really speaks to just the hardness of the snow. Again, this is something that’s a little unusual for us. . . . We’ve just got to remember that it might take a little extra time, a little extra distance if we do need to pump the brakes quickly,” Gordon said.

“Is avalanche danger high, moderate? Where are we at after last night’s [Wednesday] snow?” Debbie asked.

“Yeah, that was a super-light density snow. . . . Up along the leeward side of upper elevation ridges, there might be some fresh wind drafts that would be sensitive to our additional weight. But then looking forward, we might actually have a storm on tap for Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday,” Gordon said. 

Dave & Dujanovic can be heard weekdays from 9 a.m. to noon. on KSL NewsRadio. Users can find the show on the KSL NewsRadio website and app, as well as Apple Podcasts and Google Play. 

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At Utah ski resorts, snow is harder, faster, icier, says avalanche expert