Utah Records First Human-Caused Avalanche of the Season

by Lauren Boisvert
(Photo by moodboard/Getty Images)

There was an avalanche in a Utah canyon on Sunday that officials believe could have been human-caused. This would be the first human-caused avalanche of the year for the state.

The slide was triggered in the Central Wasatch mountain range of Little Cottonwood Canyon. This area is near the Main Chute of Mount Baldy, according to FOX13 out of Salt Lake City. The Utah Avalanche Center tweeted some helpful information for visitors this time of year.

“Winter has arrived and human triggered avalanches are possible,” the Center wrote on Twitter. “Hikers, hunters, runners and backcountry users alike, heads-up as we have shifted seasons and winter hazards are upon us.”

This avalanche comes just a day after this area of the state saw its first snowfall. The Utah Avalance Center called it a “good wake-up call” for the dangers of human-caused avalanches and avalanches in general. From January to April, the Utah mountains are particularly dangerous for snow recreation. The mountains see significant snow build-up on unstable packs.

“Avalanches are definitely possible, and it doesn’t matter what time of year it is,” the UAC said in an Oct. 22 forecast. “It doesn’t matter what you’re doing – going for a hike, hunting, trying to ski or board, or snowshoe; be prepared for avalanches.” 

The Center continued, “The main issue will be fresh deposits of wind-drifted snow that could produce slab avalanches. However, in some places where 2-3 feet of snow may accumulate, the new snow alone may produce soft slab avalanches or sluffs of new snow.”

So far, no areas in Utah have been given a “danger rating” for avalanches. But, the UAC still urges visitors and residents to be mindful of where they’re headed and of mountain conditions when involved in snow recreation.

Mountaineers Die After Deadly Avalanche in the Himalayas

Earlier this month, at least 10 mountaineers tragically died after being caught in an avalanche in the northern Indian Himalayas. A group of 29 climbers was on the Gangotri range of the Garhwal Himalayas when an avalanche struck. The group consisted of mountaineer instructors and trainees who were practicing navigation.

Rescue crews managed to find 8 survivors and airlift them to a hospital. The National Disaster Response Force and the Indian Army deployed search and rescue teams. Additionally, the Indian Air Force sent two helicopter crews as well. “The Indian Air Force is doing an aerial recce of the mountain where this happened. It is not easy to reach the spot,” said Uttarakhand state police chief Ashok Kumar at the time.

“It has happened for the first time in the history of Indian mountaineering that such a large group of trainee mountaineers has been killed in an avalanche,” said Amit Chowdhary, an official at the International Climbing and Mountaineering Federation. This tragedy came only a week after famed mountaineer Hilaree Nelson died in the Himalayas in Nepal.