La Sals in top skiing condition; national park trails snowy, icy
by Steve Kadel
Staff Writer
Jan 03, 2013 | 2880 views | 0 0 comments | 9 9 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Deep snow in Laurel Meadow and other areas of the La Sal Mountains has created ideal skiing conditions for backcountry ski enthusiasts, according to information provided by the La Sal Avalanche Center.
Photo by Zane Taylor
Deep snow in Laurel Meadow and other areas of the La Sal Mountains has created ideal skiing conditions for backcountry ski enthusiasts, according to information provided by the La Sal Avalanche Center. Photo by Zane Taylor
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For local skiers, now is the time to head to the La Sal Mountains.

Skiing conditions are excellent, according to the Utah Avalanche Center website.

Last week’s storms brought the total snow depth to 38 inches at the 9,600-foot-elevation Geyser Pass trailhead and to nearly 60 inches in Gold Basin.

The U.S. Forest Service said Grand County has plowed the La Sal Mountain Loop Road, San Juan County has plowed the Geyser Pass and Upper Two-mile road, and the Lower Utah Nordic Alliance has groomed the entire Gold Basin and Geyser Pass area.

Those going off groomed areas into the backcountry should remain alert for avalanche conditions, although sunny weather since the latest snowfall has downgraded the chances of avalanche somewhat.

On Sunday, the website listed La Sal Mountain avalanche danger as “moderate” both above tree-line and at tree-line. Avalanche conditions were “low” below tree-line.

While the La Sal Mountains enjoyed a healthy supply of snow and water content during late December, the storms missed the Abajo Mountains. Just 21 inches of snow was measured at the Camp Jackson SNOTEL as of Dec. 27, according to the website.

Up-to-date avalanche and snow depth conditions are available by calling 259-SNOW or at www.utachavalanchecenter.org.

Those heading to Arches or Canyonlands national parks need to be aware of possible ice or snow on portions of the roads, said National Parks Service spokeswoman Mary Wilson. That’s especially likely where rock formations block sunlight to the road, she said.

“Visitors will encounter winter driving conditions,” she said. “Look for shady spots.”

All the trails at Arches National Park are covered with snow or ice, she added. The final portion of the Delicate Arch trail is particularly dangerous due to ice, and Wilson urged hikers to have some sort of traction device on their shoes or boots.

The week between Christmas and New Year’s Day once again is proving to be very active at the parks, she said. “It is probably the busiest of the whole winter. Families are here with their extended families.”

For visitors with children, Wilson said visitor centers have explorer packs that can be borrowed for use while in the park. The packs contain material to help people learn about geology and other aspects of the landscape. They are geared more toward children than adults, she said, although adults may use them too.

In addition, visitor centers are offering the Junior Ranger program. It is specifically for children and includes several brief projects to complete in order to earn a Junior Ranger badge that children may keep.

“It’s huge,” Wilson said. “Some kids collect them from all over the country.”

The 2013 Southeast Utah group of national parks annual pass is now available and will begin being validated Tuesday, Jan. 1. The pass costs $25 and entitles the holder to enter Arches and Canyonlands national parks and Hovenweep and Natural Bridges national monuments as often as desired during the coming year.

Ranger-led hikes are not being held during winter months because of seasonal staff reductions. Camping is allowed year-round.

More information about road and trail conditions, activities and other topics is available by calling Wilson at 435-719-2140.

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