Utah Avalanche Center will release final advisory of the season on Sunday
First time not fatalities have been reported in 26 years
April 14, 2017
The Utah Avalanche Center will issue its final regular season avalanche advisory on Sunday and forecasters are hoping to end the season on a high note.
As of Friday, there had been no avalanche fatalities reported this season. According to the avalanche center, an average of four avalanche fatalities a year have been recorded since 1990.
"We have had lots of snow, lots of avalanches and had a couple of close calls. But the good news is that technology is working in our advantage and people are getting our information," said Craig Gordon, a forecaster with the Utah Avalanche Center. "The beauty is all of this technology is working and that has been a huge step in the right direction."
Last year, two avalanche fatalities were reported in Utah, including one in the backcountry outside of the boundary of Park City Mountain Resort in an area known as Shale Shot that claimed the life of a Wanship man.
Winter's later arrival in the Wasatch Mountains likely "worked to our advantage," Gordon said. He added, "We didn't get a lot of early season snow, which can grow structurally weak and sugary and then give us issues for the rest of the winter."
"We got a lot of snow and we had violent storms that came in fast and furious. They laid down feet of snow and inches of water and there were many times when the avalanche risk was high and even extreme," Gordon said. "Given all of those factors, I think our magnitude of outreach has grown and it has become commonplace to get the advisory before doing any backcountry recreating."
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Gordon praised outdoor recreaters for being diligent in checking conditions and avoiding risky areas. He also attributed the reduction in fatalities to improved avalanche gear and technology.
"I think, a lot of time, we think of technological advances in rescue gear, but what we have to remember is that on the front end avalanche avoidance is really the big-ticket item," Gordon said. "Using technology to our advantage, knowing the type of terrain to avoid and recognizing the conditions all have helped us to turn the corner this year to a fatality-free season."
While Deer Valley and Park City Mountain Resorts are scheduled to close on Sunday, Gordon warned "that doesn't mean there won't be any avalanches." Gordon said spring storms are common and often produce rapidly changing conditions. He emphasized that once the resorts close, avalanche control will end.
"People need to be cognizant of changing conditions and be aware of recent avalanche activity," Gordon said. "Even though we are turning the corner toward a predictable snowpack, folks should be aware there is always an inherent risk.
"It's just been an awesome season and we look forward to connecting with everyone when the snow starts to fly again in the fall," he said.
The Utah Avalanche Center will issue its final regular avalanche advisory on Sunday. For the rest of the month, the organization will issue updates on Friday for the central Wasatch Mountains, continuing through April anytime there is measureable snowfall.
For more information and updated information about avalanche conditions, go to https://utahavalanchecenter.org/.