BIG COTTONWOOD CANYON, Utah — Avalanches may be a given during this time of year in Utah, but getting caught in them is not. With heavy amounts of snow forecast for the mountains over the next few days, the possibility of avalanches increase by the hour.
Jon Paulding and Chris Proctor have been skiing in the Utah backcountry for a long time.
“One time, years ago, I was skiing up here in thin snow and I bumped into this thing under the snow and it was a dead moose – frozen solid," Paulding shared.
One thing the two haven’t seen is an avalanche covering them with snow.
"I’ve seen them from a far and they scare the hell out of me,” said Paulding.
With many people taking time off from work during the holidays, skiers and snowmobilers may be going into the backcountry just as storms raise the risk of avalanches. But education and preparedness can save lives.
"This is going to be the real deal in the backcountry," said Craig Gordon with the Utah Avalanche Center. "Once triggered, avalanches are going to break deep. They are going to break wide. They could take out the entire season snowpack. These are unsurvivable backcountry avalanche conditions.”
Paulding and proctor showed the gear they use to stay safe, including beacons, whistles to an inflatable air pack.
Their best tool is knowing the snow conditions.
"Day to day and week to week, I just kind of read the AVI forecast everyday and keep it in the back of my mind so that i have kind of a history when i go out and ski," Proctor said.
"The Utah Avalanche Center does a really good job educating everyone, and a lot more people are tuned into that and you’ve got to give them credit," adds Paulding. “My goal is never ever be in an avalanche.”