Keep informed to avoid avalanches
December 3, 2013
The Utah Avalanche Center ("UAC") is ready for the season and it’s certainly not sleeping on the job — every day, a forecaster is in the Salt Lake City office by 4 a.m. The center emphasizes that knowledge is key to keeping safe. "Most avalanche fatalities happen to people unaware of the avalanche risk they face," UAC’s website advises.
The organization launched a free "Utah Avalanche Center" iPhone app last spring that offers detailed "avalanche, weather, road and slope information you need for critical decision-making." The app is the result of a partnership between UAC, Backcountry.com and Garafa LLC, a Provo company that builds "geospatial apps" for Apple’s mobile devices.
Drew Hardesty, a forecaster for UAC going on his 15th year with the organization, spoke Tuesday with The Park Record and raved about how new technologies are changing the way UAC works towards its mission.
"Social media is not a fad," he said, chuckling. "Crowdsourcing has really been key for the Utah Avalanche Center in the sense that while we may be deemed the de facto experts, we can’t be everywhere at once and for years we relied upon legions of savvy backcountry travelers to submit observations and report snow weather and avalanches that they see in the backcountry.
"In the past, people would just call our hotline, but now it’s amazing, real-time information that people are sharing via Facebook, Twitter, Instagram," he said.
Utah Avalanche Center describes itself as "a collaborative effort between the Forest Service Utah Avalanche Center," which is "responsible for avalanche forecasting and accident investigation and reporting," and the nonprofit Friends of the Utah Avalanche Center, which is a nonprofit organization that handles "fundraising, avalanche awareness and education programs, events, the website, and business issues."
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UAC’s website advises that two-thirds of its funds "come from donations, fundraising events and grants."
UAC forecaster’s local forecast:
"This week I’m expecting quite a bit of activity with the storm snow that’s come in. With this west-to-southwest flow, the Uintas pick up about eight to 10 inches. Park City mountains, the upper reaches of Big Cottonwood Canyons, they tend to do well on this sort of flow, similar to the backside of the Ogden area mountains. So Powder Mountain, the Monte Cristo areas — they’ve all done pretty well, like 8 to 12 inches or so.
"This new snow’s coming in on some slick, hard wind crusts from that intense easterly wind event from [two weekends ago]. So it’s coming in on these slick crusts as well as some weak surface hoar and recrystallized snow that’s formed over the past week or so during the high pressure and I’m expecting a poor bond. And basically what that means is that I would expect to see a fair amount of human-triggered avalanches within the new snow — none stepping down to the old snow from late October, early November, except for in maybe shallow, pocket terrain and the high, northerly alpine. Probably more likely in the western Uintas."
— Drew Hardesty, Utah Avalanche Center
Keep informed to keep safe this winter. Utah Avalanche Center’s advisory hotline is 888-999-4019. If you observe a backcountry avalanche, report it at utahavalanchecenter.org/bc_obs_1/. UAC’s website (utahavalanchecenter.org) is kept up to date with advisories and is brimming with avalanche education resources and information. Follow UAC on Twitter (@UACwasatch) or on Facebook (facebook.com/Utah.Avalanche.Center).