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Backcountry avalanche alert in effect as crews mitigate risk

Avalanche danger remains high in most Utah mountains, and an avalanche warning alert remains in place through Tuesday night. Photo: Utah Dept. of Transportation via Twitter

SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah Avalanche Center (UAC) reports that a backcountry avalanche alert issued by the National Weather Service is still in effect and will remain in effect until 6 p.m. MST on Tuesday, Feb. 16. The alert stated dangerous conditions exist in the backcountry.

Both natural and human-triggered avalanches are likely over the next several days due to an extended winter storm predicted for northern Utah. Skiers in the backcountry should stay off of and out from under slopes steeper than 30 degrees. 

On Monday afternoon, the Utah Department of Transportation tweeted a major road closure for Little Cottonwood Canyon in Salt Lake County, due to avalanche mitigation requirements.

A backcountry alert has been in effect since four people lost their lives in an avalanche on Feb. 6. Sarah Moughamian, age 29, Louis Holian, age 26, Stephanie Hopkins, age 26, and Thomas Louis Steinbrecher, age 23, died after an avalanche was released in the Wilson Glade area of Millcreek Canyon, according to the Unified Police Department. 

The avalanche in Millcreek Canyon is the deadliest in Utah since 1992, according to the Utah Avalanche Center’s webpage.

The slide was located at an elevation of 9,800 feet on a north-facing slope.

The UAC will keep the warning in place until 6:00 PM Tuesday. 

UDOT spokesperson John Gleason said Little Cottonwood Canyon will likely be the crews’ main focus. Additionally, crews will also be keeping a close eye on road conditions in Big Cottonwood and Provo Canyons.