Large avalanche above Wood Camp in Logan Canyon (Courtesy: Utah Avalanche Center)
LOGAN — Forecasters are continuing to advice caution for people heading into the backcountry, even as the avalanche danger in northern Utah appears to have dropped. The latest update comes as officials warned this winter has been one of the worst for slides.
Utah Avalanche Forecaster Toby Weed said the possibility for avalanches may have peaked earlier this week, after a large storm dropped measurable amounts of snow in the mountains.
“Tuesday night we had a real big natural avalanche cycle in a lot of areas around here,” said Weed. “Most places that are avalanche prone in the Logan area saw significant avalanche activity. In some areas, nearly a hundred percent of the avalanche paths that we’re familiar with did avalanche during the storm.”
One of the most recent avalanches was found above Wood Camp in Logan Canyon. The naturally triggered slide is one of the biggest to occur in the area in decades. Forecasters believe it was several thousand feet wide and traveled more than 3000 feet, snapping acres of aspen and fir trees. No one was caught in the slide.
Weed said even though the danger of avalanches has dropped from “high” to “considerable”, the possibility of accidents is increasing. Part of that is due to snow conditions stabilizing, leading more people to want to head into the backcountry.
“That just naturally happens after the storm. People will tend to go out and test their luck. Usually, it seems that people are lured into steep slopes because of the nice powder conditions.”
Forecasters warn the danger of human-triggered avalanches still exists through the next several days. They advise people to stay off steep slopes in the backcountry. Dangerous avalanche conditions exist, especially on drifted upper elevation slopes, and accumulations of new snow and drifting from intensifying southwest winds, causing the danger to rise and become more widespread.
Weed has been forecasting avalanches for almost twenty years in the northern part of the state. He said this year has been the worst he has seen.
“What’s making it bad is we didn’t have much snow in the early season. We got a fair amount of snow in November, but then all through December it was dry. So the snow that was on the ground became really super weak. It is widespread across the west and certainly in the Logan zone too.”
Earlier this year, four people died in the deadliest avalanche in Utah history. The victims were skiing in Millcreek Canyon, when they were caught in a slide that was approximately 1000 feet wide.
Weed said they aren’t trying to discourage people from going into the backcountry. There is plenty of terrain that is safe to enjoy.
“We just have to tone it down this year. Stay in lower angled terrain. There is plenty of stuff you can go out and play in, lots of slopes that are not thirty degrees, or flat areas. In fact, we’re blessed in the Logan area with a lot of beautiful, big flat meadows that you can go ride around in. And you won’t have to worry about avalanches.”
The avalanche danger remains “high” for areas south of Logan to Skyline, including the Uintas.