Part 2 of 7: Utah Avalanche Center receives grant for new weather station in heavily motorized zone
Updated: Dec 1
The 2022 Avalanche Alliance sweepstakes provided seven grants ranging from $2,100 to $10,000 to national Avalanche Centers in support of motorized-focused projects and programs to improve motorized snow safety.
This seven-part series details what’s happening at Avalanche Centers across the country and how the sweepstakes is strengthening the motorized snowsports community's connection with Avalanche Centers by supporting the work they are doing for snowmobilers, snowbikers and more.
Utah Avalanche Center - Salt Lake City, Utah
Grant amount: $10,000
For the Utah Avalanche Center (UAC), providing avalanche forecasts for parts of Northern Utah for over 40 years, this year’s $10,000 sweepstakes grant will install a new weather station on top of Paris Peak near the Bear Lake Valley in the Caribou-Targhee National Forest — an area heavily used by motorized users with both avalanche accidents and fatalities – and provide weather information to backcountry riders for the first time in history.
The new weather station on Paris Peak, 18 miles away from Preston, Idaho – an area heavily used by snowmobilers and a crucial link where there is no cell service – will help motorized users know what to expect in the backcountry - from wind speeds to temperatures to how deep the powder is going to be.
“We generally have a good idea how much snow fell,” said UAC Director, Mark Staples. “We have no idea what the winds have done.”
In the heart of Idaho’s Bear River Range, there are plenty of weather stations measuring snowfall, Staples added, however, there are no upper-elevation weather stations that measure wind speed and direction.
“That’s really our whole goal,” Staples said. “We want them, instead of just hitting the trailhead and riding in the mountains and figuring out as they go, we want them to have a real clear picture of what they’re going to expect. We want them to be as armed with that information as possible, and the cool thing is, they get to make their own choices and chart their own path, but they can do it smarter.”
“We got the Paris Peak weather station installed on October 24 just in time before the snow comes.” - Mark Staples, Utah Avalanche Center Director
Without the $10,000 Avalanche Alliance sweepstakes grant, the UAC would be unable to install a second weather station in Providence Canyon for measuring snow depth near Logan, Utah – leveraging a similar amount from the Utah Division of Outdoor Recreation – an area five miles out of town ripe with steep terrain, deep snow and lots of young locals riding after school.
These new weather stations cover northern Utah and Southeast Idaho – areas with no good snowfall data or wind data, respectively – and fill two major gaps in critical weather data for motorized users in rural mountain areas by increasing coverage and improving avalanche forecasting by providing accurate snow and wind data for motorized users.
Staples said there are no weather stations of any kind measuring snowfall near Providence Canyon – the nearest reliable site is 13 miles north, which often receives drastically different weather patterns and snowfall amounts.
Both the Paris Peak weather station and the one near Providence Canyon (now called the Card Canyon) transmit data every hour via cell modems to a a Mesowest server where they are viewable by the public and avalanche forecasters through both MesoWest and the National Weather Service.
The two weather stations are being built with future add-on capabilities to be in use for the next 40 years, adding further capabilities for long-term computer modeling of the snowpack.
Staples, who has been the center’s director for eight years, said the UAC will provide the labor to install and maintain these stations while MesoWest will receive and archive the weather data.
For every dollar the Avalanche Alliance sweepstakes brought in, the Utah Avalanche Center has been able to leverage those dollars bringing in three or four dollars in terms of matching cash and in-kind support, Staples said.
The Paris Peak weather station tower base was fabricated by Zbroz and the steel donated by Zollinger Commercial Warehousing. Along with electronics technicians from the National Weather Service helping with installation and facilitate data transmission and collection, the Caribou-Targhee and Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forests facilitated proper permitting for these sites while the Weber State Outdoor Recreation Program and NoHow, Inc. consulted on the entire process.
“It’s not just the funding,” Staples said, adding that the Avalanche Alliance has created a noticeable shift in motorized culture by bringing people together. “Overall, it has been a really cool project with all the entities involved to help us make it happen. And that’s really the key – instead of safety being this kind of dorky thing, it becomes cool with the goal of riding more and doing more cool stuff.”
Links for the stations:
Utah Avalanche Center
The 2023 Avalanche Alliance Sweepstakes, which closes December 10, 2023, features a customized grand prize 2023 Polaris Patriot Boost RMK Khaos Slash 165 2.75" upgraded with a custom ArcticFX Graphics wrap, IceAge Performance Rails, HELLFIRE wheels, STRYKER A-Arms and ELEVATE spindles, SLP MoHawk skis, head, silencer and clutch kit, ZRP master cylinder cover, a lightweight rotor, titanium bolt kit and billet steering post, Pro Armor Bumpers, Exit shocks, Zbroz pull handle, Zbroz stirrups and Seat Concepts seat. First, second and third prizes include a Marlon Xplore PRO II sled deck, KLIM head-to-toe winter package, an Arctic Cat ZR 200 and an Ortovox safety package.
Now in its fourth year, the Avalanche Alliance sweepstakes unites snowmobilers, snowbikers, manufacturers, avalanche centers and riders in a collective effort to endorse avalanche safety initiatives. Proceeds from the 2023 sweepstakes will be awarded to Avalanche Centers in support of motorized-focused programs with the goal to join forces and raise funds for avalanche education scholarships while expanding avalanche forecasts in popular motorized areas across the nation.
For more info on the 2023 Avalanche Alliance sweepstakes, with donations starting at $25, visit: https://www.tapkat.org/american-institute-for-avalanche-research-education/Wk1eqk
About Avalanche Alliance
Avalanche Alliance’s mission is to raise avalanche awareness and improve backcountry safety for motorized users. With a full spectrum of focuses ranging from sponsoring beacon check stations to supporting avalanche educators, Avalanche Alliance is at the forefront of avalanche safety improvement. For more information, visit avalanche-alliance.org.
AIARE was established in 1998 as a nonprofit educational organization to address the need for a nationally recognized curriculum for avalanche education in the USA. Since that time AIARE has developed research-based Professional and Recreational avalanche training for backcountry users in the United States, South America and Europe. AIARE’s Recreational Program is represented by over 115 course providers and650 AIARE-trained instructors; the Professional Program designs and instructs workplace safety training for professionals working in the avalanche industry. Through these programs, AIARE educates over 19,000 students annually.
In 2017, AIARE created an official Motorized Program aimed to increase educational resources, participation and awareness in the motorized community. Working alongside experts in the snowmobile community, we’ve trained 48 snowmobilers to professional instructor standards, and separately 52 have received professional certificates to date. AIARE’s created motorized-specific training for recreational users is available across the US west.
AIARE’s partnership with the Live Large University (LLU) scholarship fund is intended to support motorized backcountry riders. While AIARE has a robust network of 115 providers in the US, currently 9 providers exclusively teach motorized-specific programming. The Live Large University scholarship’s goal is to increase the number of trained motorized professionals, improving the AIARE network's ability to serve the motorized community. The LLU fund awards full and partial scholarships to students taking AIARE Motorized Recreational Courses, PRO 1, PRO 2 and Instructor Training Courses. For more information, visit avtraining.org.
KLIM Technical Riding Gear is a global leader in designing, developing, sourcing and distributing the most advanced powersports apparel for snowmobile, motorcycle and off-road riding. Utilizing the world’s most premium technologies in waterproof, breathable, durable and comfortable materials, KLIM offers gear for the most demanding riders. Driven by the continual feedback and input from dedicated test pilots and passionate customers, KLIM strives to do one thing above all – enhance the riding experience. For more information, visit KLIM.com.