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Avalanche forces Utah skiers to rescue one of their own

Published February 3, 2013 9:24 pm

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

A skier was rescued Sunday after being swept over a cliff by an avalanche in Silver Fork area of Big Cottonwood Canyon.

The 36-year-old Salt Lake County man was in a group of three experienced skiers who had hiked from Grizzly Gulch at the Alta ski area to Silver Fork, Unified Police Dept. Lt. Justin Hoyal said. The group triggered a 250-foot-wide and 100-foot long slide about 1 p.m., carrying the man away and burying him under about 5 feet of snow, Hoyal said.

Backcountry guide Todd Glew was leading a second group of skiers near the slide area and said he heard someone yell, "Avalanche!" when the slide began.

Glew, rushed to the rescue, along with one of the other skiers from the buried man's group. The pair followed a weak signal from an avalanche beacon and used a probe to quickly locate the buried man and dig him out, Glew said.

"The first thing I got to was his hand and it was moving," Glew said. "Then I got to his face and it was blue and his lips were blue. He was barely breathing."

Glew said he administered several CPR-type "rescue breaths" and the man was revived. Several doctors who were part of Glew's skiing group conducted a medical assessment and found the man was not injured.

The slide had carried the man over a cliff and down about 500 vertical feet of mountainside, Glew said.

Hoyal said the man walked off the mountain on his own and provided a report of the incident to police, but did not want his name released to the public.

"He was very fortunate," said Hoyal, noting that all of the skiers were wearing beacons and carrying avalanche rescue equipment.

Glew said he's been working as a guide for more than 10 years, but had never before had to dig anyone out of an avalanche.

"I was hoping never to have to do it," he said. "I'm really, really excited that I didn't have to dig up a dead body. It was pretty cool that we got to him quickly."

The Utah Avalanche Center listed the avalanche risk as moderate to considerable on Sunday. The danger will lessen slightly on Monday but will remain moderate. Utah has had a handful of snowmobilers and skiers caught and rescued in other slides so fart this winter, but only two deaths. On Jan. 16, brothers Coleman and Traven Sweat, ages 14 and 7 respectively, were caught and buried in a slide in Wasatch County during a snowmobile outing with their family.

jdobner@sltrib.com