Lack of mountain snow creates more avalanche danger

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Utah avalanche experts are warning backcountry skiers to be extra cautious due to a thin early season snowpack that is the lowest in four decades.

The Salt Lake Tribune reports that a weather gauge near the top of Little Cottonwood Canyon east of Salt Lake City shows that fewer than 50 inches of snow had fallen by Jan. 1. That’s the lowest total for that date since 1977.

Drew Hardesty, a forecaster with the U.S. Forest Service’s Utah Avalanche Center, says the thin early season snow can quickly become weak, sugary-like snow that breaks.

Nobody has died in an avalanche this winter but Hardesty is warning backcountry skiers to use extra caution.

Hardesty says avalanche deaths exceeded the yearly average of 2.8 in each of the last three winters when the snowpack was less than 100 inches by Jan. 1.

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