NewsLocal News


Witnesses help after avalanche trapped SUV up Big Cottonwood Canyon

Posted at 9:48 PM, Feb 16, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-17 00:24:18-05

COTTONWOOD HEIGHTS, Utah — Two men are recounting the aftermath of an avalanche up Big Cottonwood Canyon that trapped an SUV and blocked the road Tuesday morning, leading to a temporary shutdown of the canyon. Thankfully, the friends brought one important piece of equipment that helped in those moments after the slide.

To an out-of-towner, a massive winter storm with inches upon inches of fresh snow is what makes Utah memorable.

Taylor Tam and Mitchell Huang came in from California to experience it. Their ski trip has included visits to resorts up both Little and Big Cottonwood Canyons.

"[It] lives up to the greatest snow in the world," Tam said.

For them, memorable has meant deep, fresh powder — maybe a wipeout or two.

But it also meant a crazy experience during their treacherous drive up Big Cottonwood Canyon Tuesday morning. Tam described the dangerous conditions that the latest winter storm left behind.

"You see cars spun out everywhere, little accidents," he said. "So the whole way was kind of fraught with danger."

At one point, Tam said a snowplow came around a corner. Right after it passed, the two heard a whoosh, followed by seeing a cloud of snow right in front of them.

"I looked up and I saw this Toyota basically up to the windows in snow, kind of angled onto the side of the road," Huang recounted. "And then we saw on the left side of the face, there's like this big cleared face and then some exposed rock. So we knew that an avalanche had happened."

Within seconds, people began to jump out of their cars. Huang and Tam got out, and said the people inside the Toyota 4Runner hopped out, obviously in shock.

Huang described how the people, who appeared to be college-aged friends, said, "things that cannot be said on air. A lot of, 'Holy bleeps,' and, 'That was crazy!' You know, that type of thing."

The group began to dig, but only had tiny shovels to work with.

That's when Tam and Huang jumped in. Luckily, Tam keeps a giant shovel in his car in case of emergencies.

His shovel came in clutch, with many hands making light work to clear the road.

"It definitely got the job done," Tam said, holding up the shovel. "We were out of there with all of us digging, couple minutes."

After they got through the mess, Tam and Huang continued up to Solitude to hit the slopes.

Their trip to Utah, made unforgettable by a dumping of fresh powder — and of course, a crazy memory of an avalanche that thankfully didn't hurt anyone.

"Everybody was safe," Huang said. "So, a good story to tell, for sure."