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Missing skier found dead following Grizzly Gulch search and rescue

Posted at 7:24 AM, Jan 20, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-21 21:32:43-05

ALTA, Utah — A missing skier was found dead following a search and rescue operation in the backcountry Grizzly Gulch skiing area Thursday.

At around 9:30 a.m., officials said they had located the body of 68-year-old Merrill Bitter from Cottonwood Heights.

According to officials, the Alta Ski Area received a call from someone who knew Bitter at 9 p.m. Wednesday. They were concerned because he told them he would be back by 3 p.m. The Unified Police Department was notified and a coordinated search with Wasatch Backcountry Rescue was mobilized.

Crews searched until midnight, then resumed their search at sunrise Thursday.

Bitter's body was found in a backcountry area adjacent to Alta Ski Area. His exact cause of death has not yet been determined.

“So the rescuers who are up there say it kind of looks like there might have been a small slide," said Sergeant Melody Cutler with the Unified Police Department. "So, that is one of the things the medical examiner will be able to determine. If there was possibly a medical issue or if it was maybe blunt force trauma and those kind of things that could’ve been caused by that slide.”

Sgt. Cutler said this tragic ending is another reminder of just how dangerous the backcountry can be, even if it is right next door to a groomed Mountain resort.