Two skiers were caught in an avalanche in Utah at 2:30pm this afternoon at 10,000-feet on Gobblers Knob (between Big Cottonwood Canyon and Mill Creek basin). One was only partially buried and injured and was able to extract himself and dig up his fully buried partner. Unfortunately, his partner had no pulse once extracted.
Douglas Green, 49, was buried 3-4′ deep and was airlifted to a local hospital where he was pronounced dead.
The surviving skier sustained injuries and was also taken to the hospital via LifeFlight.
This was the first avalanche death of the winter in Utah and the 8th in the USA this winter. That total may rise when missing the three missing currently people are determined to have died form avalanches. A doctor at Hatcher Pass AK, a ski instructor at Donner Pass, CA and now a hiker at St. Mary’s glacier, CO.
UTAH AVALANCHE CENTER REPORT:
Two skiers – a 50 year old male and a 49 year old male – were on top of Gobbler’s Knob and prepared to ski a run called Whitesnake, a steep south facing run into Mill A basin. The first skier dropped into the path, made a few ski cuts, and skiied 300′ down to an island of safety on the right. He then called the second skier to ski down to him. When they regrouped, the first skier skied the second pitch down another couple hundred feet and skied off to the right. The second skier began the descent of this second pitch when he collapsed the slope and triggered the avalanche.
The avalanche – as gathered from the photos – propagated all the way back up to the ridgeline and reportedly propagated a couple hundred feet wide, carrying the second skier hundreds of feet down the slide path and into the gulley below. The second skier pulled the handle and inflated his avalanche airbag, and then proceeded to be carried down the path. The first skier was hit by the debris, picked up, and carried into a tree where he was only partially buried.
After extricating himself, the first skier skied down to the debris pile and conducted a beacon search and made a successful probe strike. The burial depth was estimated at 3-4′ deep. Maximum debris pile depth was estimated at 15′ deep. The second skier was recovered without a pulse and CPR was initiated. An medical helicopter landed and evacuated the two skiers to a hospital in Salt Lake City where the buried skier was pronounced deceased.
Photos below. Representative pit profile from UDOT avalanche workers conducted on January 17th also below.
A full investigation will be conducted tomorrow.
The weather has been complex this winter. November’s early season snow was followed by a long, mostly dry spell, with only very small, intermittent snow storms, for much of November and early December. During this time, periodic cold temperatures and clear skies contributed to the faceting of the shallow snowpack on the shady slopes. In November and December there were also several warm, sunny periods that led to the formation of crusts on the sunny slopes. A series of storms between December 12th and 25th added several feet of snow to the snow pack, and culminated with a major avalanche cycle.
Weather events becaome even more complex in January. The New Year was ushered in with a very strong southeastery wind event on January 1st, scouring and loading unusual aspects, producing another avalanche cycle. This was followed by small, almost daily storms between January 3rd and 8th. A dry spell between January 9th and 12th, with clear skies, allowed for the development of near surface facets on the shady slopes, with sunny skies and warm temperatures leading to more sun crusts on the solar aspects.
Between January 13th and 20th, a series of storms brought snow six out of seven days. This period was culminated with a very stormy day on the January 20th, with periods of very strong southwest to northwesterly winds, dense heavy snow and a very active avalanche cycle.
January 21st was sunny, with clear skies and rapidly warming temperatures.