OUTDOORS + RECREATION

Avalanche safety should be on everyone’s mind says forecaster

Dec 5, 2022, 12:13 PM
The view at Snowbasin Resort....
FILE: Snowbasin ski area. Photo credit: Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — While Utahns are out enjoying the greatest snow this season, a dormant danger looms. This weekend it reared its head, as a skier-caused avalanche served as a reminder that safety should be of the utmost importance when out in the mountains.

Craig Gordon, a forecaster with the Utah Avalanche Center, said it doesn’t matter if you are hitting the slopes, snowshoeing or snowmobiling safety should be at the forefront of your mind.

“What we need to have in our toolbox is first and foremost, avoiding avalanche terrain altogether,” said Gordon. “Doesn’t mean we can’t go out and have a blast, but it does mean that we need to stay off of and out from under steep slopes.”

Gordon said you should always know the avalanche danger forecast before you head out. The forecast along with avoidance techniques can make all the difference if you are in the backcountry. 

“Steer clear of suspect slopes,” said Gordon. “Those are going to be the slopes facing the north half of the compass, you’re going to be steeper than 30 degrees. And that’s where dense wind-drifted snow sits on top of weak sugary snow that was created in the middle of the November dry spell.”

Even with all of the preparation and avoidance, avalanches can still occur. That is why Gordon said you should own and know how to use rescue tools in case you find yourself in a self-rescue situation.

“Along with having the avalanche forecast in your toolbox, you also need to be prepared for your own self-rescue,” said Gordon. “That means wearing and knowing how to use an avalanche transceiver and a shovel and a probe.”

You can see the avalanche danger ratings as well as other safety tips on the center’s website here.

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