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Eager skiers from out of town remain stuck in Little Cottonwood Canyon due to highway & resort closures

Posted at 9:14 PM, Jan 01, 2023

SANDY, Utah — Alta and Snowbird ski resorts had to shut off their liftsand keep guests and employees indoors all day Sunday due to extreme conditions and avalanche danger.

“Down in the lobby, there’s people who are missing flights and people who are missing the Rose Bowl,” said Maddie Reichman, visiting from Phoenix.

For out-of-staters hoping to start the new year on their skis, Sunday was full of disappointment and an eagerness to make it out on the mountain.

“We waited, we waited, we waited,” said Alex Smith, also visiting from Phoenix. “Kept checking the report, went down to the sauna. Came back up, hoping maybe by noon we could get a half day in.”

“We’ve gotten a lot of snow so the skiing is going to be great this week when they do open,” Reichman added.

As of Sunday night, there’s still no word when the Little Cottonwood Canyon resorts or State Route 210 will open back up.

But the closed roads didn’t stop hikers from exploring the base of the canyon.

“Today we decided to hike up the canyon since you can’t drive up there,” said Nick Bradshaw. “It’s been a very beautiful hike and a good time.”

Craig Gordon with the Utah Avalanche Center said the avalanche risk is all because of a weak layer that formed back in mid-November.

“These are tree-snapping avalanches,” he said.

Gordon called this weekend’s weather a “historic storm.”

“The water numbers are colossal. The snow numbers are Herculean, and unfortunately, that’s falling on an unstable base,” he said.

Although the fresh powder is enticing to antsy skiers and snowboarders, Gordon’s best advice is to wait. He said the current backcountry risk is listed as "high" or "extreme," and the danger could last for several days.

“Right now this is nothing to even mess around with. This is truly the real deal,” he said. “What we have to realize now is that we've got to go to the mountain on its terms.”