Experts say avalanche danger in Utah to worsen in wake of 2 fatal slides

Posted at 9:54 PM, Feb 12, 2014

SALT LAKE CITY -- Two people have been killed in Utah's backcountry in less than a week. Now, a warning from avalanche forecasters Wednesday: The conditions are only expected to worsen.

The road leading up to Little Cottonwood Canyon will close at midnight because Utah Department of Transportation personnel will be triggering avalanches.

"Just happy to be alive," said a young man named Travis, who triggered an avalanche snowmobiling in Providence Canyon in Cache County Tuesday night.

Two people have been killed in Utah's back country so far this year: A BYU student snowshoeing in American Fork Canyon and a 36 year-old man snowmobiling in Sanpete County. Travis marks the fourth person caught in a slide in less than a week. He's lucky he survived.

"Next thing you know, I was tumbling in the snow,” he said of the experience.

It's the snow and the slopes that are a skier and snowboarder's paradise, but the backcountry is no place to be right now.

"Normally avalanche danger slowly gets safer and safer through time," said Bruce Tremper, who is the Director of The Utah Avalanche Center.

With weak snow and more wet powder expected in the next series of storms in the mountains, the conditions are only expected to get more treacherous.

"We're out there monitoring our snow conditions," said Jason Davis, who is UDOT's Director of Operations.

The Utah Department of Transportation, which monitors some of the major roads leading into Little and Big Cottonwood canyons, are preparing for what's ahead. The President's holiday means a busy weekend for resorts.

Davis' team is digging through test pits and triggering slides, on purpose.

"They're out there checking those conditions, working with ski resorts and avalanche center and do their best to predict what Mother Nature is going to throw at us,” Davis said.

The Utah Avalanche Center is asking people to stay inbounds. Meantime, UDOT's work to stabilize the area in Little Cottonwood ends at 8:30 a.m. Thursday.