Utah just recorded their 1st and 2nd avalanche deaths for this winter in just two days; February 8th and 9th, 2014. Avalanche danger has been rated “Extreme” or “High” the past few days in Utah after a big storm dropped 33″ of snow at Alta ski resort, UT.
The first avalanche fatality was a BYU student snowshoeing just south of Salt Lake City in the American Fork Canyon on Saturday, February 8th. Details on that avalanche here: 21-Year-Old BYU Student Killed in Avalanche Saturday in Utah.
View Larger Map. Location of second avalanche fatality in Utah on February 9th.
The second avalanche fatality occurred Southeast of Provo, Utah near Huntington Reservoir on Sunday, February 9th. This snowmobiler was with 3 other snowmobilers when he remotely triggered and was caught in a 4 foot deep avalanche that buried him 6-8 feet deep.
All these snowmobilers had avalanche equipment and were able to extract the buried man within 20 minutes but he had already perished by then. The deceased snowmobiler is survived by his wife and 5 children.
“So often the focus is on prevention tools. But that doesn’t prevent you from being in an avalanche. There are deadly, un-survivable avalanches, no matter what equipment you bring sometimes.” – Drew Hardesty, an avalanche forecaster with the Forest Service Utah Avalanche Center
“It was a party of four experienced snowmobilers, all with rescue gear. Some of the snowmobilers became stuck and one person circled uphill and to the side of them to come help. He triggered the avalanche that buried him but the avalanche did not catch the stuck snowmobilers. They other snowmobilers began rescue efforts immediately but the victim was buried 6-8 feet deep and it took 20 minutes to extricate him. They began CPR but he did not respond”. – Utah Avalanche Center
36 avalanches have been reported in Utah since Wednesday. Avalanche danger remains “High” or “Considerable” today. It is not a good time to be in the Utah backcountry.