The Seasons Are Changing And So Is The Snow; Spring Brings Different Avalanche Dangers To Utah

Mar 6, 2020

Backcountry skiiers climb for their runs in Logan Canyon, just outside of Logan
Credit Ashley Rohde

Spring is almost here and many Utahns will take advantage of the warmer weather to get in just a few more ski days.  However, experts at the Utah Avalanche Center say avalanche dangers will change along with the season.

“Forecasters put out a public advisory every single day that includes an avalanche danger rating, travel advice, the type of problems that are going on and the size and likelihood of avalanches.”

Nikki Champion is a forecaster for the Utah Avalanche Center.  She works in the Salt Lake, Provo, and Ogden areas. This winter presented unique challenges to recreationists in Utah.

“So we had a pretty exciting season to start," Champion said. "We just got a lot of snow and a lot of wind right away. And then we had a lingering issue for a couple of months after that. We had what’s called a persistent weak layer. It’s just weak snow that gets buried and kind of lurks under the surface for a long time. And then about two weeks ago now we had another big storm that caused the 54 hour shut-down of Little Cottonwood (Canyon.) Now things have finally calmed down. We haven’t had a lot of snow in the past week. We’ve got a generally low avalanche danger right now and we’re just looking forward for the next storm to come.”

Springtime avalanches are caused by different triggers, but can be just as dangerous.

“Once we start moving into March we see a lot more new snow instabilities or we start to see wet snow instabilities once we get snow and then things start to really warm up," Champion said.

 

Champion said the best way to protect yourself from avalanches is to learn how to avoid dangerous areas all together.

“So the first thing, every morning to check the forecast," Champion said.  "Our advisory comes out at 7 a.m. everyday. We also have a hot-line you can call if listening to us chat about it is a little bit easier. Start earlier. Think about the amount of sun that the slope’s getting and think about different aspects. So, south aspects get a lot more sun, so maybe as we move into some wet snow issues, traveling on north aspects might be a better option.”