Avalanche survivor thanks those who rescued her

Posted at 8:50 PM, Sep 12, 2013
and last updated 2013-09-12 23:39:53-04

SALT LAKE COUNTY, Utah -- She was swept away by an avalanche as wide as two football fields and survived, and nine months later, the rescued victim is thanking the Salt Lake County search and rescue crews who helped save her.

On January 12, Elisabeth Morrey and her now husband were cross-country skiing in Millcreek Canyon when an avalanche swept her 800 feet and buried her for five minutes.

Adam Morrey used a beacon to find Elisabeth and dig her out, and within an hour search and rescue crews arrived.

Morrey said if it wasn't for the combined quick response by search and rescue teams, she either wouldn't be alive or would have been severely injured. Morrey described the moment when she saw rescuers arrive.

"When I saw the helicopter lights, it just changed my mindset incredibly from despair to 'It's gonna be OK!' ," Morrey said.  "I don't remember ever feeling anything but incredible luck and gratefulness that they found us so quickly and that I was able to get to University Hospital and get treatment. It was before midnight; that basically saved my toes and fingers."

Salt Lake County Sheriff Jim Winder said the team of 65, who are mostly volunteers, drop what they're doing at a moment's notice to perform an average of 80 rescues a year.

"Rain, sleet, snow--it doesn't matter: These men and women will respond with no pay, for nothing more than the gratitude of the citizens of this community," Winder said.

Winder adds that with more than 2.5 million visitors to the Cottonwood Canyons every year, rescuers are seeing an increasing number of hikers and skiers who put themselves in dangerous scenarios and are not prepared.

Elisabeth Morrey is now taking an avalanche course and hopes to pass that education on to other back country skiers.