Utah Skier Buried in Avalanche Rescued

by TK Sanders

Emergency rescuers found and retrieved a 55-year-old skier in Utah after an avalanche caught and buried the man on the slopes. Something triggered the avalanche around 12:30 p.m. Saturday in the East Bowl of the Big Cottonwood Canyon. The run in question is about 400 vertical feet deep.

Local police Det. Kevin Mallory said friends the Utah skier called for help after the avalanche buried him. A myriad of different organizations and departments assisted with the rescue efforts, including Wasatch Backcountry Rescue teams from Solitude, Brighton and Snowbird, as well as teams with Salt Lake County Search and Rescue and Unified police.

Rescuers estimate that the Utah skier spent somewhere between 15 and 23 minutes buried under the snow. Other skiers helped dig him out, as well; and when they found him, he was breathing but unconscious. He was the only victim of the avalanche.

Rescue officials arrived and flew the man off of the mountain to the Intermountain Medical Center. He soon regained consciousness, but was still in critical condition.

“We are heartened by the outcome of this incident, and glad it was not any worse,” Salt Lake County Sheriff’s Search and Rescue tweeted later the same day. “Thank you to the many different organizations for pooling resources so quickly and working with us to perform this rescue.”

Avalanches occur by the dozen this time of year in Utah and across the West, mostly triggered by skiers

Mallory said avalanches are always a risk for skiers; especially this time of year as temperatures begin to warm but snow continues to fall and pack onto the mountain. Springtime skiers, in particular, need to be equipped with beacons and other safety equipment, he also added.

“Today was a stellar example of Salt Lake County’s amazing emergency response resources,” the county search and rescue team tweeted. Salt Lake County’s rescue team is a volunteer division that works around the clock to help provide extra safety to residents in case of emergency.

Officials also temporarily closed the canyon road in order to help rescue the Utah skier. They also needed to clear the residue that flew off the mountain.

The Utah Avalanche Center reported five other avalanches on Saturday, including two at Silver Fork (near Cottonwood) that each caught a skier. Additionally, the center reported 11 avalanches throughout the northern end of the state on Friday, all of which were triggered by skiers or snowmobilers.

Incredibly, the Avalanche Center has already recorded 96 avalanches of varying sizes and strengths across Utah in the month of March, alone. Observers can go to the center’s website and add records and evidence of avalanches as they occur.

The Utah skier who survived the Cottonwood Canyon avalanche Saturday is in stable condition.