An avalanche in the backcountry south of Park City on Saturday buried the skier who triggered the slide before others with the man rescued him, the Utah Avalanche Center (UAC) said. The slide occurred he slide occurred in the vicinity of Guardsman Pass, a high-elevation area close to the borders of Summit, Wasatch and Salt Lake counties.
The avalanche stretched 200 feet wide and traveled downhill approximately 200 vertical feet through trees and rocks. It was 3 feet deep. The UAC said the slide was on an eastern aspect on a slope that is 47 degrees steep, at 9,000-feet.
A description posted to the UAC website said the person who triggered the slide was the fourth skier on that slope on Saturday.
“We knew the steep part of the slope had a likelihood of breaking but thought it would be manageable. (We) all underestimated the amount of snowpack that broke,” the description said.
The skier was rescued from under 1-foot of snow within a minute, located due to the tip of his ski sticking through the snow, according to the UAC. A frightening video of the avalanche was posted to the UAC website.
“He let go of his poles and he was swimming through the avalanche to keep his head up,” one of his friends said.
Trent Meisenheimer, a UAC forecaster who investigated the Saturday slide, said in an interview the avalanche occurred on a small but steep slope. He said the person who was buried was with several other people in the backcountry when they built a skier jump out of the snow. The person went off the jump, landed on an especially steep part of the slope and triggered the avalanche, Meisenheimer said. The other people saw the slide and converged on the area where they saw the ski sticking out of the snow, he said, describing the scene as a “full burial except for his ski tip sticking out of the snow.”
The others were equipped with gear to rescue someone after an avalanche, including shovels, Meisenheimer said. They were “aware they were in avalanche terrain,” he said. The person was buried for approximately 75 seconds, he said.
The Utah Avalanche Center said early in the week there was a moderate danger of avalanches in the Park City-area backcountry. There was also a moderate danger in the Salt Lake-area mountains. The danger rating was high in the Uinta Mountains early in the week, according to the Utah Avalanche Center.