Don’t be lured out of bounds
It has been a long and delightfully snowy winter but, in April, when snowstorms are followed by balmy bluebird days, a perfect day in the backcountry can quickly turn into a tragedy.
This week’s storm is a textbook example of why skiers, snowboarders, snowmobilers and even snowshoers need to continue taking every precaution to avoid being caught in avalanches. In some places along the Wasatch Range, between Monday and Thursday, more than two feet of snow fell on top of older, weak layers. The fierce wind that blew in the storm added to the complexity of the current snow conditions by creating crusted slabs and cornices. That, combined with predicted warming over the weekend, has set up prime avalanche conditions in the ungroomed slopes outside of the ski resorts.
Unfortunately, the first whiff of spring skiing conditions can make even the most cautious backcountry travelers a little reckless and Saturday is sure to be a temptress. But we are counting on local recreationists to exercise good judgment and, perhaps, share a little backcountry wisdom with our visitors.
This weekend will be a great opportunity to enjoy one of the last weekends at the resorts, where snow-safety experts and ski patrollers have been up since before dawn evaluating potential slide areas and triggering unstable areas so they won’t surprise anyone later in the day. It will also be grand for hiking in the foothills and even a little cycling on the pavement. But it is not the time to plan an excursion beyond the resorts’ borders or in the Uintas.
This winter has been extraordinarily free of avalanche accidents in Summit County, but the season is not over. Just this weekend, a vehicle traveling in Little Cottonwood Canyon was overtaken by an avalanche. The nine passengers, luckily, were uninjured.
The decrease in avalanche-related fatalities is a direct result of the Utah Avalanche Center’s efforts to educate the skiing, snowboarding and snowmobiling public about the genuine risks in the backcountry. This season’s statistics show that their programs are working. Let’s keep it that way. Stay inbounds this weekend and if you are traveling on any ungroomed snow-covered slopes be sure to carry beacons and shovels and consult the Avalanche Forecast Center, http://www.avalanche.org/~uac/, before choosing a route.
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