Utah Department of Transportation implements new backcountry closures in Little Cottonwood Canyon

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A revised policy regarding backcountry closures in Little Cottonwood Canyon is being implemented for winter 2016-17 by the Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT). A complete closure of the entire backcountry in Little Cottonwood Canyon will go into effect the night prior to planned avalanche mitigation work, which is generally during a big storm cycle.

The goal of the revised closure policy is to reduce the possibility of backcountry travelers, including backcountry skiers, from being exposed to avalanche explosives work, as well as get SR 210 open in a safe, timely manner to allow the thousands of eager skiers of Snowbird and Alta to travel up the canyon.


A shot from this Thanksgiving at Snowbird, looking out over Little Cottonwood Canyon. Photo: Dave Amirault

“UDOT has thousands of people waiting on them to reduce the avalanche hazard and safely open the road and the sighting of a single person or even evidence of a person near their artillery targets can delay opening for hours,” The Utah Avalanche Center said in a release. “For this reason, they will be enforcing a complete closure of all backcountry in Little Cottonwood Canyon the night before any planned avalanche mitigation work. If this revised plan does not work, more restrictive closures may be needed.”

Little Cottonwood Canyon will be closed beginning at 8 p.m. the evening before avalanche mitigation work, with 6:30 a.m. being the anticipated starting time for explosives work. UDOT anticipates a likely opening time for backcountry travel of 8 a.m. The entirety of Little Cottonwood Canyon will be closed to backcountry skiing, with a one kilometer overshoot buffer put in place on the backside of affected ridgelines.

This, of course, will affect backcountry skiers that head out early for dawn patrol missions to beat traffic in the canyon and score untracked lines, as well as those that have camped out overnight in anticipation of deep days out of bounds.

Announcements regarding closures will be made via Twitter with the #UDOTavy hashtag. The Utah Avalanche Center will be retweeting UDOTavy Tweets as well. For more, click here.



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