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Massive snowfall and increased avalanche danger keeps ‘interlodge’ in effect

Posted at 10:08 PM, Feb 17, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-18 00:08:49-05

LITTLE COTTONWOOD CANYON, Utah — Some locations in Little Cottonwood Canyon have received nearly five feet of snow since the beginning of the week.

With the serious threat of avalanches near both Alta Ski Resort, Snowbird and along SR-210 (Little Cottonwood Canyon), the Town of Alta placed local buildings under ‘interlodge’ on Monday at 11 p.m.

Read: UDOT workers safe after being hit by Little Cottonwood Canyon avalanche

“The idea is you have to stay inside of a safe space, inside of a building and when there’s maximum we actually require people to get into a safest part of a building,” said Harris Sondak, Mayor of the Town of Alta, who has lived there since 2004 and has experienced countless nights under interlodge.

In February, 2020, Alta was under a record 52-hour interlodge after dangerous conditions and numerous slides occurred in the area.

“It’s interesting being told you can’t go outside,” said Berkley Stone, an employee at the Goldminer’s Daughter Lodge. Stone has been working at the lodge for four years and experienced the 2020 interlodge first-hand. “This one’s definitely going to reach 48 hours and we’ll see what happens tomorrow if we’re allowed out early or not.”

Approximately 90 guests are staying at the Goldminer’s Daughter Lodge during the interlodge with about seven rooms that are trying to check out and leave immediately. The lodge also has guests currently stuck in the Salt Lake Valley anxiously trying to get up Little Cottonwood Canyon to spend a few nights.

Read: Avalanche danger remains 'high' in most Utah mountains, 'extreme' in Salt Lake area mountains

“It’s just a really weird scenario, the windows are rattling, the charges are going off. I can hear them going off at Snowbird, I can hear them going off here at Alta,” said Lexi Dowdall, a writer for SkiUtah who is interlodged at Alta. “One of the things that makes interlodge so exciting is hearing the avalanche mitigation, the bombs are going off they’re dropping hand charges, they’re firing the howitzer, UDOT is performing control on the road.”

Dowdall came to the area on Monday with the intention of staying through the interlodge.

“This ones a little more exciting than any other interlodge I’ve been apart of,” said Dowdall. “Typically, they only last a couple of hours while they perform mitigation but multi-day interlodge is quite rare and I’ve definitely never been multi-day maximum interlodge.”

Maximum interlodge refers to moving people already interlodged in a building, to a safer location within that building, such as a part of the building that isn’t susceptible to an avalanche.

Read: Wednesday snowfall breaks two longtime Salt Lake City records

Mayor Sondak was particularly pleased with messaging provided by the Alta Marshals, Alta Ski Resort, Snowbird and area lodges to their guests on Monday which minimized the amount of people stranded in the Alta area for multiple days.

“If you are skiing and you hear that the road is going to close, it’s a good idea to take seriously about going home,” cautions Sondak for those heading up Little Cottonwood Canyon in the future.