BRIGHTON, Utah — Two skiers were caught and carried in a pair of avalanches in Big Cottonwood Canyon Saturday afternoon, with one losing consciousness and having to be rescued.
Eight people in a "guided party" were skiing down East Bowl in the Silver Fork area around 12:30 p.m. when the slide occurred, according to Salt Lake County Sheriff's Search and Rescue. The first skier in the group triggered the avalanche and was caught, carried and buried. None of the others were caught.
The skier — a man in his 50s — was under the snow for an estimated 15-23 minutes until other members of his group were able to successfully dig him out. He was unconscious but breathing when he was pulled out.
A LifeFlight helicopter hoisted the man from the mountain to the road (State Route 190), where he was then transferred into a second LifeFlight helicopter and taken to a hospital.
Unified Police later told FOX 13 News that the man had regained consciousness.
Ski patrollers with Wasatch Backcountry Rescue responded to the scene to assist the group. The county SAR team, Unified Police, and Solitude Ski Patrol helped run a central command from the road.
"We are heartened by the outcome of this incident, and glad it was not any worse. Thank you to the many different organizations for pooling resources so quickly and working with us to perform this rescue," the SAR team wrote in a Facebook post.
The Utah Avalanche Center reported that another skier was caught in an avalanche Saturday just two miles away, but only partially. The skier did not need to be rescued.
The UAC issued a "special avalanche bulletin" for the weekend, saying the avalanche-prone conditions combined with the amount of people venturing out made for an increased risk of a serious avalanche accident.
The bulletin included two key messages for anyone venturing into the backcountry:
- Ensure everyone has and knows how to use an avalanche beacon, shovel, and probe.
- Avoid being on, near or under all steep slopes and avalanche terrain. There is great riding and great powder on slopes less than 30 degrees in steepness where avalanches don’t occur.
Those going out are also advised to check the daily avalanche forecast at utahavalanchecenter.org.