Alta, UT – Little Cottonwood Canyon in Utah closed at 6 a.m. this morning so that the state’s Department of Transportation (UDOT) could conduct avalanche mitigation work along the numerous slide paths above State Highway 210. It was supposed to reopen to skiers and riders at 9 a.m.
However, after UDOT provoked 40 avalanches, seven of which reached the roadway, the decision was made to leave the only way in and out of the dead-end canyon, home to Alta Ski Area and Snowbird Ski and Summer Resort, closed for the day. Those trapped in the canyon were allowed out when downhill traffic only was permitted during a narrow window from 1 to 3 p.m. today. Uphill traffic during the same time period was restricted to marked vehicles with critical employee passes.
The road will now reopen to the public at 9 a.m. tomorrow — at the earliest. The Little Cottonwood backcountry on the north side of the road, from Lisa Falls through Grizzly Gulch, is officially closed through 8 a.m. tomorrow.
Video: A massive avalanche roars out of Tanners Gulch towards Little Cottonwood Canyon Road in Utah on Monday morning.
A storm that ended on Saturday night dropped up to three feet of new snow in the canyon. Another storm that began overnight last night has already left an estimated additional two feet, according to Wasatch Snow Forecast’s Evan Thayer, with more expected overnight through tomorrow. Fierce winds since Sunday have whipped all of that new snow into sensitive wind drifts that are resulting in large, unsurvivable avalanches.
Those locked out of the canyon, fretting that Alta and Snowbird guests may be enjoying some “country club skiing” while they’re stuck in the Salt Lake Valley today, may take a deep breath. Interlodge in the Town of Alta and at Snowbird (a condition whereby people are not legally permitted to exit the building that they presently occupy) was suspended only from 1 to 3:30 p.m. today. Neither ski resort ran any of their lifts on Monday.