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Avalanche danger to remain considerable in Utah over weekend after fatal slide

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Posted at 5:57 PM, Jan 23, 2016
and last updated 2016-01-24 02:15:18-05

BIG COTTONWOOD CANYON - Avalanche awareness is heightened across Utah following the death of a backcountry skier near Gobblers Knob this week.

The Utah Avalanche Center says danger is expected to remain considerable over the weekend, particularly on north and east facing slopes because high winds.

“All of those slopes have some weak layers within the snowpack,” said Utah Avalanche Center forecaster Evelyn Lees. “The ones that are going to be particularly sensitive are any that are getting wind drifted today. We’ve got some strong west winds blowing at the moment.”

Lees said that’s why it’s so important for those headed into the backcountry to not only look at general conditions, but also at specific areas. She said conditions can vary based on terrain and how much show has fallen in that area.

In the Gobbler’s Knob area, forecasters say the weather has been complex. Intermittent snowstorms created several weak layers on the steep slope. Those weak layers contributed to Thursday’s unintentional avalanche.

Backcountry skiers heading out Saturday said the fatality has put them a little on edge, but it just means preparations are more important.

“I think you can never be too safe in the backcountry,” said backcountry skier Devin Earl. “We make our decisions based on what we find in the snow. It’s almost a method that we use, to make sure we stay safe and come home alive.”

Earl says they never head out without testing beacons, probes and shovels. But he said the most important aspect of staying safe is to recognize, and walk away from, a dangerous situation.

Avalanche conditions are expected to change with weekend storms. You can always check the current conditions on the Utah Avalanche Center’s website.