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Avalanches are part of life in Little Cottonwood Canyon

Avalanches are part of life in Little Cottonwood Canyon (4).png
Avalanches are part of life in Little Cottonwood Canyon. (Utah State Archives){ }

Crews spent the day in Little Cottonwood Canyon trying to clear snow from the road after several avalanches forced a closure, leaving thousands of people up the canyon in the town of Alta and at Snowbird resort.

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The closure will last into Saturday, according to the Utah Department of Transportation, which tweeted around 9:00 p.m. Friday that the estimated time for S.R. 210 to open is noon on Saturday.

This week’s heavy snow battered the steep slopes of the canyon, sending snow over the road.

“Little Cottonwood Canyon has the highest, or one of the highest, avalanche danger indexes in the United States,” said Jim Steenburgh, a professor of atmospheric sciences at the University of Utah.

Steenburgh, who authored the book ‘Secrets of the Greatest Snow on Earth’, says avalanches have been part of life in the canyon since miners settled Alta in the 1800s.

“It can be a place where Avalanches are a real concern,” Steenburgh said.

Newspaper accounts in the Utah State Archives show an avalanche that buried the town of Alta in 1881.

Other historic images in the archives show avalanches over the years that have affected Little Cottonwood Canyon. You can see those images in our gallery above or by clicking here.


During periods of serious avalanche danger, the town of Alta and Snowbird resort enter an interlodge protocol, meaning people cannot travel outside. The town of Alta will remain on interlodge overnight Friday.

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