Check out the new free online avalanche course series developed by the Utah Avalanche Center. “This is a great way to refresh your skills or prepare you for a Backcountry 101 or Level 1 class,” said Eric Trenbeath. He thanked Grand County Search and Rescue, Classic Air Medical, and instructors Scott Solle, Chris Benson and Tim Mathews for making a recent winter training a success.
Recent wind events have damaged exposed snow surfaces. “You’ll have to work hard to find soft snow in sheltered locations. Low snow conditions still prevail as well with rocks and deadfall lurking just beneath the surface, so be careful out there,” said Trenbeath. Base depth in Gold Basin is 30 inches.
Avalanche observers have noticed a few natural avalanches from the wind, and they appear to have broken down into old weak layers with fractures 2 feet to 3 feet deep, and up to 50 feet wide. These all occurred on E-NE facing slopes in the highest elevations.
“Time and warm temperatures have helped to stabilize the snowpack, but persistent weak layers of loose, sugary, faceted snow remain. A melt freeze crust of varying strength and thickness exists on top of the October snow, and loose facets have developed above it and below,” said a press release from the Avalanche Center. “In areas where the snowpack is shallow, faceted snow beneath the crust exists all the way to the ground. In areas where the snowpack is more than about 3 feet deep, these weak layers are gaining strength. Spatial variability, or the variability in snow cover, is a key element right now. All you need to do is find the right trigger point in a rocky, shallow area, or above a hidden bush, and you could still trigger a dangerous avalanche 2 feet to 4 feet deep.” Officials advise skiers to avoid steep slopes and areas such as cross-loaded gullies that have a smooth rounded appearance, or where the snow feels hollow underneath.