Authorities warn of avalanche danger after storm

This map shows the areas throughout Utah where there is high avalanche danger as of Dec. 20-24, 2014

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — A windy storm that dumped nearly 2 feet of wet snow in the mountains of northern Utah over the weekend has caused serious avalanche danger, authorities said Monday.

The new snow is unusually dense, and a weak layer of snow underneath makes it particularly easy to break and trigger a slide, said Bruce Tremper, director of the U.S. Forest Service’s Utah Avalanche Center.

“Even though it’s 2 feet, it weighs as much as 4 feet of snow normally would,” he said. “You just sneeze at this stuff, and it’s going to want to slide.”

The Avalanche Center ranked the danger as high Monday for areas near the mountains across northern Utah, from the Skyline area south of Provo to the mountains near Logan and east into the Uintas.

“You just can’t get on anything steep today,” Tremper said.

Solitude Mountain Resort was forced to close Monday morning after winds gusting at 90 mph started blowing down trees near chairlifts, spokesman Dave DeSeelhorst said. One wind gust blew out a window near a lift overnight.

“This is the first time we’ve closed after 9 a.m. in as long as I can remember, 25 years,” DeSeelhorst said.

Other resorts were also reporting partial closures, though they were subject to change throughout the day, said Nathan Rafferty, president of Ski Utah.

Though it may keep people off the slopes today, the snow dump is good news for the season’s future, he said.

“Once they do open, it’s going to create some really incredible riding conditions,” he said.

The precipitation that fell as rain the state’s valleys left nearly 2 inches of water in some places, said National Weather Service meteorologist Monica Traphagan. There were no reports of flooding, though, likely because it fell over a fairly long time period.

Big and Little Cottonwood Canyons near Salt Lake City reported the biggest snow totals, with 19 inches falling at Alta Ski Area. The snow had more moisture than is normal because the storm system was relatively warm, she said.

The storm should taper off by Monday night. A colder system moving through northern Utah during the week could bring snow to the valleys on Christmas Day, Traphagan said.

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