Officials warn of high avalanche danger after several close calls

Courtesy of the Utah Avalanche Center

LOGAN — Even though there has been less snowfall this season, officials say the danger of avalanches is greater compared to previous years.

Utah Avalanche Forecaster Toby Weed said a lack of snow and high winds have created an unstable snow pack at upper elevations, producing more slides this year.

“There is what we call persistent weak layers, consisting of faceted or sugary snow,” explained Weed. “It is widespread across the Logan zone and the rest of the Utah mountains fairly deeply now, about two-or-three-feet below the surface in most places. Where the snow is really weak and shallow, it is still pretty dangerous.”

There have been three triggered slides reported so far this year in our area. The most serious occurred just after Christmas in Boss Canyon, near the Idaho border. A snowmobiler was almost completely buried in an avalanche and pinned against a tree. His friends were able to dig him out safely. The two other slides were near Tony Grove and Logan Peak areas.

Weed said snowmobilers have been lucky that the avalanches so far this winter have just been close calls.

“There is only a certain amount of times that we are going to be lucky before we have a serious accident. In other words, if we have 10 human-triggered avalanches or close calls in the back country, one of those is likely to be a fatality.”

Forecasts show even if we receive a lot more snow, the avalanche danger will not decrease because of the weak layers that we had at the beginning of the season.

Weed said he doesn’t want to discourage people from playing in the backcountry though. He just hopes they will check avalanche advisories, be prepared for the conditions and use caution.

“The other thing is that everyone in your party needs to have a beacon, a shovel, and a probe, and know how to use them. That is lifesaving equipment and it doesn’t work if you don’t know how to use it.”

Snowmobilers are also advised to slow down and only let one sled at a time ride through steep slopes.

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