We’re less than two weeks into the nationwide effort to “flatten the curve” with most people social distancing and working from home as nearly all non-essential businesses have shuttered. Accordingly, nearly the entire outdoor industry has shut down, which includes Utah’s ski resorts that had planned to operate for an additional month. Meanwhile, employees at the Utah Avalanche Center (UAC) are working overtime to provide forecasts to the growing number of stir crazy skiers and snowboarders are flocking to the backcountry.
“Travel in the mountains is still a relatively safe way to get out, exercise, find joy and maintain a sense of normalcy,” says Chad Brackelsberg, Executive Director of the UAC. “With the Utah ski resorts closed, more people are finding their way into the backcountry. Many people are new to backcountry travel. The UAC is working hard to ensure that we can get an avalanche awareness message out to these new users and they understand where to learn about avalanches while practicing social distancing.”
Due to the surge of backcountry travelers, the Utah Avalanche Center needs public support more than ever to help keep people safe. As a nonprofit organization, the UAC receives more than two thirds of its funding through personal donations, business sponsorships and fundraising events. They’ve set a goal to raise $40,000 through the 2020 UAC Spring Campaign. If you want to make a donation or learn more about the Spring Campaign, visit the UAC’s website.
As skiers, snowboarders and outdoor enthusiasts adapt to what is—at least for the time being—our new normal, Brackelsberg is urging responsible behavior from anyone considering backcountry travel. “During these challenging times, the UAC asks that you do not carpool with people who live outside of your household, keep your groups small, and don’t have social gatherings at the parking lot before or after your day out. Please take extra precautions to avoid the risk of accidents that could require medical attention. Any backcountry accident can stress the capacity of our medical system,” he says.
The UAC will continue providing daily avalanche forecasts for eight regions throughout Utah until mid-April and will make updates during storm cycles until the end of April. Please read their detailed local forecasts before you head into the backcountry.
Stay up to date with ski resort-related COVID-19 policies and closures here. Get up-to-date information about COVID-19 in Utah by checking in with the Utah Department of Health (UDOH) over the phone at 1.800.456.7707 or by visiting their website at health.utah.gov. Follow precautions recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) including social distancing and hand washing, which you can see on their website here.