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Wind and snow spawn slides, slicks

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Brighton Ski Patrol members head back up the mountain after an ambulance left with a young snowboarder who broke both legs in a Friday avalanche.

Brighton Ski Patrol members head back up the mountain after an ambulance left with a young snowboarder who broke both legs in a Friday avalanche.

Scott G. Winterton, Deseret Morning News

BIG COTTONWOOD CANYON — Wind and snow Friday caused dangerous road conditions and heightened avalanche hazards in Utah's mountains, though less than an inch of snow was reported in the Salt Lake Valley.

Just hours after an avalanche warning was issued for northern Utah Friday afternoon, a snowboarder was injured in a minor slide near Brighton Ski Resort.

The 23-year-old man and a friend had hiked to the top of Mount Millicent and were just starting to board down when the slide was triggered. Brighton Area Manager Randy Doyle said it was unclear Friday whether the injured snowboarder lost his balance on the extremely steep hill and accidentally set off the slide, if heavy winds triggered it or a combination of both. The Salt Lake County Sheriff's Office said the initial indication was that the injured man broke both legs.

In southern Utah, I-15 in both directions was closed for four hours Friday afternoon after a sudden snowstorm caught motorists traveling between Cedar City and St. George off-guard. The freeway was shut down in both directions between 2 and 6 p.m. to allow crews to clean up 17 traffic accidents involving some 40 vehicles and several jack-knifed semitrucks, Utah Highway Patrol Sgt. Todd Royce said.

Only one motorist suffered serious but not life-threatening injuries, Royce said.

Around the Salt Lake Valley, the highway patrol reported 39 property damage accidents, one injury accident and 10 slideoffs between midnight Thursday and late Friday, Royce said. The majority of those accidents came between 4 and 7 p.m., when Salt Lake saw "a fairly good spurt" of snow, he said.

Friday's high temperature of 32 degrees at Salt Lake International Airport had dropped to a breezy 27 as it snowed about 5 p.m. but had warmed up again Friday night, according to the National Weather Service.

But little snow accumulated along the Wasatch Front. Only two-tenths of an inch of snow was reported at the airport, Wasatch ski areas reported 2 inches or less.

St. George had an inch of snow by noon Friday, said Dave Sanders, lead forecaster in the service's Salt Lake City office. And more snow was in the forecast for southern Utah, with as much as 8 or 10 inches possible by Saturday night in high elevations around Zion National Park, Escalante and Brian Head ski resort, Sanders said.

The National Weather Service predicted similar but warmer weather Saturday. The mountain valleys around Park City and Heber could see 3 feet of snow through Saturday night, Sanders said.

In addition to the snow and cold temperatures, wind gusts up to 75-80 miles per hour caused weather problems.

"It caused a lot of drifting, which could create plumes of snow," Sanders said. "That causes problems in that it creates pretty heavy loads of snow . . . which causes more and more avalanche danger."

A minor avalanche in Little Cottonwood Canyon Friday night resulted in closure of the canyon to motorists wishing to travel up the canyon. The slide was only 5 feet wide and approximately 3 feet deep and covered just one lane of the canyon road.

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