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Backcountry avalanche danger expected to rise

SALT LAKE CITY — With possibly two more winter storms in the forecast for the state of Utah, authorities expect the backcountry avalanche danger to rise for mountains in Northern and Central Utah.

Craig Gordon, an avalanche forecaster with the forest service’s Utah Avalanche Center, says there’s good news for skiers, and bad news as conditions could potentially become dangerous for avalanches.

“We’ve got a powerful winter storm, with its sights poised on nearly the entire state, so the good news is we’re gonna get much-needed water and snow.  The bad news is it’s gonna be a dense, heavy snow with strong winds associated with this storm.  That’s gonna put a thick dense slab on top of weak pre-existing snow that was created earlier in the month when we went high and dry,” says Gordon.

Gordon says dangers of an avalanche will rise significantly through the day Thursday, and elevate to high by Friday.  He says that means both human-triggered and natural avalanches are likely in the backcountry.

The Utah Avalanche Center says skiers will be excited to get out to the slopes with the coming snowpacks, but they do advise backcountry travelers to stay off of and out from under slopes steeper than 30 degrees.

“You have to be aware of steep wind-drifted slopes above where you’re traveling and those steep slopes you’re connected to,” Gordon says.

He says a good idea is to stick to one of Utah’s world-class resorts where active avalanche reduction work is done during stormy periods.  Gordon says you should be good as long as there are no steep slopes above, adjacent to or connected to where you are traveling.