"We have a lot of steep mountains, a lot of snow, and a lot of people," said Tremper. "Put all that together, and you have a lot of avalanches."
At the moment, the Utah Avalanche Center's Web site --www.avalanche.org/~uac -- lists the avalanche warning for the Davis County area as moderate, which means that avalanches are "infrequent but possible." Statewide, however, Tremper said that Utah averages about 10,000 avalanches a year, with 100 of those unintentionally triggered by humans.
Those triggers can, unfortunately, sometimes be caused by something as simple as a footstep. Though the movies suggest that a really good shout is necessary to cause an avalanche, the real culprit is the combination of heavy snowfall and unstable snowpack that has recently hit the area.
Though the slope doesn't look any different, any disturbance can cause the heavier, more cohesive snow to disconnect from the weaker bottom snow like, as the Utah Avalanche Center's Web site puts it, "a dinner plate sliding off a table."
The sliding snow usually travels anywhere from 60 to 80 miles an hour, meaning that anyone caught in the way of the avalanche is unlikely to be able to get out of the way.
According to Tremper, around 20 Utahns a year end up caught in avalanches. Four of those people, on average, usually do not survive the experience.
Still, there's a lot even the most adventurous back country skiers can do to keep themselves safe.
The Davis County Search and Rescue Web site --www.dcsar.org -- recommends avoiding slopes 30 degrees or greater and being especially careful just after intensive snow falls. Another dangerous period comes when there's a sudden warming trend just after a snowfall, giving water a chance to get into the weaker layers and making the chances of an avalanche that much greater.
The easiest way to check all of these things is by consulting the Utah Avalanche Center's advisory, which can be found either on their Web site or by calling the organization's toll-free phone line at 888-999-4019. Detailed weather and snow conditions are given for key areas all across the state.
"Anyone experienced with the back country knows to check the advisory," said Tremper. "And if they don't, they should."
Tremper also suggests that anyone wanting to take on the back country equip themselves with rescue gear such as beacons, shovels and probes. Also, he advises groups to venture into potentially dangerous areas one at a time, with the other members of the party staying someplace safe in case a rescue is needed.
"Everyone really needs to do these three things," said Tremper. "If they did, we could prevent most avalanche accidents."
n Check the avalanche advisory (888-999-4019 or www.avalanche.org/~
uac) before going out.
n When you do go out, make sure you go in groups of two or three and only cross dangerous areas one person at a time.
n Carry rescue equipment such as beacons, shovels and probes with you at all times.