Avalanche Near Solitude Ski Resort, UT Leaves Experienced Backcountry Skier in Serious Conditions

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video news report and interviews about yesterday’s avalanche

A backcountry skier was serious injured after being caught in an avalanche in the Silver Fork Canyon area of Big Cottonwood Canyon near Solitude ski resort in UTAH yesterday.

Local police report that three backcountry skiers were in Silver Fork Canyon when they triggered an avalanche at 3:30pm.

This avalanche was triggered remotely by the 3 skiers on their 7th run in the zone.

Avalanche outlined in red.  image:  UAC

One skier was caught in the avalanche and was taken 600 feet downhill in the avalanche, according to the Utah Avalanche Center.  He was partially buried and seriously injured when the avalanche came to rest, according to police.

He suffered a head injury and was airlifted from the canyon to a local hospital in serious condition.

The injured skier is a 52-year-old man from Park City. 

LifeFlight arriving at Solitude with Skier 2. image: UAC

Craig Gordon from the Utah Avalanche Center states that there have a been 12 close calls in Utah’s mountains since January 9th, 2018 which means “near misses and partial burials.”

“This is a very unusual snowpack for the mountains of Northern Utah.” – Craig Gordon from the Utah Avalanche Center

Overview image showing the location of the avalanche by the red dot.  image:  UAC


A group of three was skiing in the Silver Fork drainage of Big Cottonwood Canyon in the Meadow Chutes area. This avalanche occurred on their 7th run in the area. They had already skied El Rollo once and the Football Field twice in addition to other runs.

None of them skied the actual section that avalanched. They skied just to the south (or skier’s right) of the area that avalanched (see the image below).

Skier 1 and Skier 2 descended and stopped in the runout zone of the area that subsequently avalanched (the red rectangle in the image below).

The avalanche released while Skier 3 was descending who first noticed it and yelled avalanche. Skier 1 heard the warning, moved approximately 10 feet to the north, and avoided being caught. 

Skier 2, who was taking a photo, was not able to move out of the way and was caught by the descending avalanche. He was carried 600 vertical feet. The total distance the avalanche ran was about 1000 feet vertical

This avalanche was remotely triggered which means no one was on the part of the slope that actually avalanched. Skier 3 was skiing to the side of it and Skiers 2 and 3 stationary underneath it.

At the time, the severity of the avalanche and the terrain below led them to think that Skier 2 must have been killed. Luckily he survived but was injured severely enough that they could not self evacuate and called for help.

The first people to arrive on scene were Solitude Ski Patrollers operating under Wasatch Backcountry Rescue. They hiked into Silver Fork on foot.

A LifeFlight Helicopter landed on the avalanche debris and delivered Skier 2 to the medical clinic at Solitude where he was transferred to an ambulance and driven to a hospital. Skiers 1 and 3 skied out.


We will visit the scene of this accident and collect more information.

A couple of initial comments about this accident.

  1. The rescue and the response to this avalanche happened incredibly fast. It was 2 hours from the time the avalanche happened until Skier 2 was delivered to an ambulance. He sat in the snow for 2 hours getting colder by the minute. BE PREPARED BECAUSE IT COULD TAKE MUCH LONGER if you don’t have reception for your cell phone, if a helicopter is not immediately available, if there is not a good landing zone nearby (the helicopter landed right next to this skier), if there is bad weather or darkness, or any other number of reasons.
  2. This group has a huge amount of experience skiing in the backcountry, well over 60 years. It’s very tricky to accurately assess stability.
  3. This was their 6th run in the area. Don’t trust the snowpack we have this year because there are a lot of booby traps out there.
  4. With these types of avalanches and remotely triggered slides, runout zones include terrain beneath adjacent slide paths.


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