Skiers safe after caught in Lambs Canyon avalanche

Posted at 10:55 AM, Jan 25, 2017
and last updated 2017-01-25 21:59:42-05

SALT LAKE COUNTY, Utah - A 200-foot long avalanche took place in Lambs Canyon Wednesday morning, and it was triggered by some backcountry skiers.

The skiers made it out safely, but there was a time when police believed at least one of the men was buried.

According to the Utah Avalanche Center, if you had to put it on a scale from one to five, Lambs Canyon would be a three when it comes to the risk of an avalanche.

"Right now the backcountry is extremely dangerous, there is a lot of potential for avalanches, we all know we've had our fair share this year," said Detective Ken Hansen with the Unified Police Department.

Hansen said when it comes to the backcountry, it's ski at your own risk and that's exactly what these three men were doing around 10:30 a.m.

"One skier started off, I don't think he had realized he had started an avalanche about 200 feet long," Hansen said.

The other two skiers saw the avalanche from the top of the mountain. They couldn't locate their friend's beacon signal and feared for the worst.

"So they called 911, very concerned about their friend being buried," Hansen said.

According to police, the beacon couldn't be located because the skier was out of range. He managed to escape the avalanche and just kept going, all the way back to the car.

Eric LaPerle is the manager of White Pine Touring. They teach six to eight courses a season on backcountry safety. He said Wednesday's avalanche should not be treated as an isolated incident, as it could happen anytime.

"It does raise the awareness of people who are traveling in the back country," LaPerle said.

LaPerle said having the proper equipment is important, but education is the first step.

"Understanding how to safely go into an area and whether or not that area is even safe to travel in," LaPerle said.

LaPerle said his staff will be the first to tell you about the dangers of the back country, but it's up to the skiers to listen.

"We get a lot of foot traffic through here, a lot of phone calls, 'hey where should I go out there?'" said LaPerle. "We are constantly reminding folks how important it is to be safe traveling in the back country."

It was almost a year ago when a 50-year-old man lost his life in this same area of Lambs Canyon. He was also back country skiing when he was trapped under an avalanche.