A new weather center in the LaSal Mountains offers daily reports on snow and avalanche conditions as part of a burgeoning community winter recreation program.
The LaSal Avalanche Forecast Center began operating late last month to provide updated information on weather, road and cross country ski-trail conditions and avalanche hazards, by recorded message at 259-SNOW.Craig Bigler, a member of the Canyon Country Skiers club, said in a news release last week that the avalanche and mountain weather forecasting is being provided as part of a program coordinated by the Moab Chamber of Commerce to promote year-round recreation in the area.
The weather center was proposed last year and funding was provided by the Forest Service to get the operation going in time for 1988-89 winter skiing.
"Our mountains offer ski terrain as good as any in the Wasatch Mountains, snow as good as the Colorado mountains and panorama views of red-rock canyons unsurpassed anywhere in the world," said Mark Yates, who staffs the station on a contract basis with the U.S. Forest Service.
The LaSal Mountains rise to nearly 13,000 feet southeast of Moab and are accessible via a loop road that connects U.S. 191 south and the scenic Colorado River road, U-128 north of Moab.
Also as part of the program, Grand County will regularly plow the LaSal Mountain Loop Road and Geyser Pass to accommodate mountain-bound motorists.
The LaSal weather station is set up with electronic monitors to record temperature, humidity, wind speed and wind direction.
Yates, 33, has begun making daily treks into the mountains, measuring snowfall, snow depth and density. As part of his routine, he digs snow pits to determine changes in snow stability.
He compiles new forecasts each evening for the following day, suggesting safe places to ski. He also instructs callers where to get information on guides, lodging and other services in Moab.
If callers need further information, they are instructed to call his home at 801-259-8964, where Yates' wife, Mary, does her best to answer questions.
She said she has confidence in her husband's ability to avoid danger himself when in the mountains. He is an Outward Bound instructor and received training from the American Avalanche Institute.