What you need to know about avalanche safety in Utah

Dec 14, 2022, 7:30 PM | Updated: Dec 28, 2022, 8:46 am

Avalanche risk high...

Credit: Utah Avalanche Center. A recent photo of a large, destructive avalanche.

SALT LAKE CITY —  Utah has seen many avalanches this season, two of them have been in the past two days. Typically, when thinking of avalanches we think of them happening in the high back country. But the most recent ones have been at a lower elevation, which brings it uncomfortably close to home. 

“Right now we are seeing especially dangerous conditions in northwest through east facing aspects.” said Nikki Champion, an avalanche forecaster for the Utah Avalanche Center. “We are seeing especially touchy conditions at those low and mid elevations.”

With this most recent storm, there has been an equal amount of snowfall at all elevations. That is why avalanches are happening at the lower to mid-elevations too. 

The perfect storm for avalanches

This season has been the perfect storm for avalanches. Utah had its first snowfall in late October followed by a few weeks of clear weather causing the snowpack to weaken. Then it started snowing last week, and it hasn’t slowed down. This caused a heavy snowpack on top of weak snow. 

A few more things are necessary for an avalanche to occur. They include a weak layer of snow, a slab on top of that, a slope greater than 30 degrees, and finally a trigger. A trigger can be an extra inch of snowfall to vibration from a snowmobile; anything that moves a slab of snow off of a slick and weak layer of snow. 

Champion told KSL NewsRadio to check the avalanche report every morning before going out.

“We are going to let you know what aspects and elevations we’re expecting to see avalanche dangers,” she said.

How to stay safe in avalanche country

Skiers, boarders, hikers, snowmobilers, and others should keep an eye on the terrain they’re traveling, Champion said. Also, it’s important to stay off of steep slopes, and to refrain from hiking or snowshoeing below a 30-degree slope.  

Stay aware in or around the mountains when skiing, hiking, or doing any sort of activity. Check for cracks in the snow or audible sounds of snow moving or sliding, especially in Utah’s lower elevations right now.  

And Champion said it’s important to have a few things when heading out into the greatest snow on earth.

“Whenever going in the backcountry take the three essential things: a beacon, shovel, probe, and a partner,” said Champion, “and make sure you have the proper training, so you know how to use the gear before an accident happens.”

Related reading:

We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Send it to the KSL NewsRadio team here.


Jordan Thorpe scrapes snow off his windshield after the first snow of the season in the valley in S...

Carter Williams,

Warnings, advisories issued as ‘significant’ winter storms heads toward Utah

SALT LAKE CITY — Federal forecasters issued a series of winter storm warnings and winter weather advisories across Utah on Thursday, ahead of a “significant” winter storm with the potential to dump more than 2 feet of snow in the mountains this weekend. The Wasatch Mountains and Wasatch Back communities are expected to receive the […]

3 hours ago

man with shovel demonstrates depth of utah snowpack...

Becky Bruce

Utah snowpack below normal, reservoirs above average

With about 125 days left until Utah typically reaches its peak snowpack for the water year, which began Oct. 1, we're off to a slow start.

8 hours ago

Air pollution over SLC...

Adam Small

A storm and inversion relief is on its way to Utah

A winter storm is headed to Utah this week. Meteorologists think Utah's will get relief from the inversion.

15 hours ago

Smog settles over Salt Lake City during an inversion on Wednesday, Jan. 12, 2022. With Utah's winte...

Allessandra Harris & Devin Oldroyd

Inversion may worsen this week, NWS says

With Utah's wintery temperatures this week, there will also be some inversion patterns and low air quality in the valleys.

3 days ago

snow on a mountain...

Adam Small

Snow is on its ways to northern Utah valleys, could impact Thanksgiving travel

KSL Meteorologist Matt Johnson said the Wasatch Front will see a mix of rain and snow Thursday afternoon, but it'll turn to mostly snow in the nighttime.

8 days ago

SALT LAKE CITY — The National Weather Services on Friday issued a series of winter storm watches...

Carter Williams

Winter storm watch issued for Utah’s mountains with ‘significant’ snow in forecast

The first big snowstorm of the season appears to be heading Utah's way.

13 days ago

Sponsored Articles

front of the Butch Cassidy museum with a man in a cowboy hat standing in the doorway...

Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

Looking Back: The History of Bear Lake

The history of Bear Lake is full of fascinating stories. At over 250,000 years old, the lake has seen generations of people visit its shores.

silhouette of a family looking over a lake with a bird in the top corner flying...

Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

8 Fun Activities To Do in Bear Lake Without Getting in the Water

Bear Lake offers plenty of activities for the whole family to enjoy without having to get in the water. Catch 8 of our favorite activities.

Wellsville Mountains in the spring with a pond in the foreground...

Wasatch Property Management

Advantages of Renting Over Owning a Home

Renting allows you to enjoy luxury amenities and low maintenance without the long-term commitment and responsibilities of owning a home.

Clouds over a red rock vista in Hurricane, Utah...

Wasatch Property Management

Why Southern Utah is a Retirement Paradise

Retirement in southern Utah offers plenty of cultural and recreational opportunities. Find out all that this region has to offer.

Human hand holding a protest banner stop vaping message over a crowded street background....

Prosperous Utah Communities

Utah’s Battle to Protect Youth from Vaping Epidemic Faces New Threat as Proposed Rule Threatens Progress

Utah's strict standards of nicotine levels in vaping products are at risk, increasing health hazards associated with use. Read more about how you can advocate for a better future for Utah's youth.

Aerial photo of Bear Lake shoreline with canopies and people camped out on the beach...

Visit Bear Lake

Last-Minute Summer Vacation Planning? Check Out Bear Lake!

Bear Lake is the perfect getaway if you are last-minute summer vacation planning. Enjoy activities with your whole family at this iconic lake.

What you need to know about avalanche safety in Utah