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Human-triggered avalanches on the rise in Utah

Published January 14, 2014 7:52 am

Risky slopes • Avalanche danger warning issued for Logan, Uintas backcountry.
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There have been 11 human-triggered avalanches since Friday, the Utah Avalanche Center reported Tuesday.

The latest occurred Tuesday afternoon, when a skier triggered a slide out of bounds near Snowbasin Resort. Weber County sheriff's dispatchers said that no one was trapped in that slide.

The sensitive snowpack prompted the U.S. Forest Service on Tuesday to issue a Backcountry Avalanche Warning for the western Uintas and Logan mountains.

On Monday, an 18-year-old man survived a large avalanche triggered by snowmobilers in the Logan area's Providence Canyon, the Avalanche Center reported.

The buried rider, who was in a party of three, was off his sled when the avalanche occurred and he tried to run for some nearby trees. He was buried about 20-30 feet away from his sled, which also was buried, the Center reported.

"He was not wearing an avalanche beacon and just by pure chance his gloved hand was visible on the surface," the Center reported. His father and another rider dug him out with their hands. He needed to be resuscitated but apparently had no other significant injuries.

The party of three got down on two sleds and immediately drove the victim to the hospital.

"The individual caught up in this slide was very lucky and at last report is home and doing well," the Center reported.

The slide was 4 feet deep, a half-mile wide and traveled 800 vertical feet.

In 2008, an avalanche in the same claimed two lives.

Toby Weed of the Utah Avalanche Center said that "very dangerous avalanche conditions still exist," especially for those peaks and slopes of northern and northeastern Utah, "noting that "human-triggered avalanches are likely on steep slopes."

The avalanche warning does not include ski resort-maintained runs where avalanche-control work is done.

The Uintas and the Logan mountains were rated at "high" for potentially deadly backcountry snowslides on Wednesday, mirroring Tuesday's reports.

The warnings applied especially to slopes at elevations of 8,500 feet and above.

The mountains above Provo, Ogden and Salt Lake earned "considerable" risk rating predictions on Wednesday while a "moderate" grade was given to the Moab district of southeastern Utah.

— Reporter Michael McFall contributed to this story.

remims@sltrib.com

Twitter: @remims