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Pair of skiers killed in backcountry avalanche identified

Posted at 10:52 AM, May 09, 2024

SALT LAKE COUNTY, Utah — Two skiers were found dead and one was rescued after an avalanche Thursday in the area of Lone Peak Summit near Little Cottonwood Canyon.

The skiers killed were later identified as 23-year-old Utah resident Andrew Cameron and 32-year-old Austin Mallet, of Montana. The identity of the skier who survived was not released.

Friday morning, Rivera said the bodies of the two individuals were brought down the mountain via helicopter hoist.

Officials reported the men who did not survive were fully buried under several feet of snow.

Conditions were too unstable Thursday to hoist the two deceased individuals, but crews were able to locate them hours after the avalanche occurred and determined they had died of their injuries in the avalanche.

Five teams were sent up to the area Friday morning to assist in the recovery efforts, while even more individuals were assigned to monitor for avalanche danger.

Rivera credited the survivor for his vast knowledge of the situation, which made recovery efforts more efficient.

Photos from a preliminary report show the impact of the avalanche, which the Utah Avalanche Center was two feet deep, 250 feet wide and had a vertical of 500 feet.

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Rivera said it took the men five hours to reach the location where they were discovered, showing how remote they were.

The men began their journey at 5 a.m. on Thursday at Hidden Valley Park and triggered the avalanche at around 10 a.m. in the backcountry.

The rescued skier, one of three men originally missing, was taken to the hospital after he was able to dig himself out of the snow and lifted off the mountain by helicopter. Video showed him limping towards an ambulance after the rescue, and was transported in fair condition.

Video captured by FOX 13 News shows rescued skier being brought to parking lot via helicopter

Helicopter brings in person video

According to Craig Gordon with the Utah Avalanche Center, the rescued man said the entire group were very experienced backcountry skiers and were properly equipped.

"The person in the lead was caught and carried downhill on the looker’s right side of a ridge or fin of rock," a preliminary report from the UAC reads. "That person was partially buried and was able to self-extricate. The other two were caught and carried downhill on the looker’s left side of the ridge feature. Those two were fully buried and unfortunately did not survive."

The area is popular with recreators in the area of Little Cottonwood Canyon, officials told FOX 13 News.

Gordon explained the area is extremely challenging and called the avalanche "unusual" for this time of year.

"This is very serious terrain, it's steep, it's North-facing," he explained. "The crew that was up there would have to be experienced. This isn't the type of zone you'd just stumble on."

Gordon detailed that the group had all the right gear but things went wrong, resulting in an avalanche several feet deep and a couple hundred feet wide.

"My heart is very heavy for this group that loves the snow and loves the mountains as much as I do," Gordon said, "and now are dealing with something that is so emotionally insurmountable."

Unified Fire Authority, backcountry search and rescue crews, Sandy officials and Draper Fire crews are all assisting in the response.

The avalanche comes on the heels of a late-season storm that brought several feet of dense, heavy snow to Utah's mountains.

"The past three days, Big and Little Cottonwood Canyon have seen over 30 inches of snow with over three inches of water," Gordon said, adding that the storm was a "game-changer" and "definitely elevated" backcountry avalanche danger.

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