- Associated Press - Wednesday, December 23, 2015

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) - Utah is set to get more snow on Christmas Day, adding to the white blanket that has ski resorts rejoicing and avalanche experts warning about dangerous conditions in the mountain backcountry.

The storm will drop up to 3 inches of snow in the northern part of the state Friday and bring colder temperatures that could create treacherous roads for holiday drivers, National Weather Service forecaster Glen Merrill said Wednesday.

The mercury will likely drop into to the 20s, which means snow and ice already on the ground will freeze and traditional snow-clearing methods won’t work as well, he said.

More than 5 feet of new snow has fallen in some parts of the mountains around Salt Lake City over the last four days, bringing skiers to the slopes and ratcheting up the avalanche danger.

There have been countless slides in the backcountry since Tuesday, including two that have partially buried skiers, said Brett Kobernik with the Utah Avalanche Center.

“This is a serious, serious, significant avalanche event, one that we haven’t seen for a while,” he said.

In one case, a ski patroller sent off a slide at Snowbasin resort near Ogden that left him with minor injuries. Another skier was partially buried a small avalanche on the backside of Guardsman’s Pass outside of Salt Lake City; she was carried about 20 feet but wasn’t hurt.

One 5,000-foot slide sent snow tumbling in the Cascade Mountains and created a dust cloud visible throughout the Provo area Wednesday morning, Kobernik said.

Madeline Ann Adams, 15, saw it break near Provo Peak when she was at her grandfather’s house in Orem.

“There was just this massive heap of snow that was going super-fast down the mountain. It was just flying,” she said.

Backcountry skiing has grown in popularity in recent years as people look for new challenges and untouched terrain outside the bounds of ski resorts. Kobernik said he’s particularly concerned because good weather is on the horizon for Wednesday and Thursday, and holidays leave people with free time to get outside.

“It’s going to be tricky conditions because as the danger starts to slowly increase, the obvious signs are not going to be so obvious anymore,” he said.

The piles of snow have given the state’s water reserves a much-needed boost, Merrill said.

“Were still below average, but it’s helped tremendously,” he said. The precipitation has been especially helpful in the dry mountains of southern Utah.

It’s also been a boon for the state’s ski resorts, coming after a lackluster 2014 and leaving plenty of new powder right before the rush of people spending the holidays on the slopes.

“This is what people know and expect from Utah, and it’s great we could deliver,” said Nathan Rafferty, president of industry group Ski Utah.

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