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Snowshoer lost in avalanche; boarder missing
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2006, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Two people were missing in Utah's snow-packed mountains Saturday night - a Salt Lake County snowshoer swept away in an avalanche in the Timpanogos Mountains and a teenage snowboarder who disappeared after apparently venturing into an out-of-bounds area of Snowbird Ski resort.

At 11:30 p.m., search and rescue teams in Salt Lake and Utah counties were still searching for the teen, who was reported missing in the Mineral Basin area, said Utah County Sgt. Darren Gilbert.

The teen, who was believed to be snowboarding out of bounds at the Snowbird ski resort, was reported missing about 6 p.m. Gilbert said poor weather and visibility was hampering searchers, who set up command at Tibble Fork Reservoir.

Avalanche danger is high in the area in which the teen went missing, Gilbert said.

A winter storm forced the Utah County Search and Rescue Team to call off the search for the snowshoer at 6 p.m., about 4 1/2 hours after he and a friend were caught in the slide on the back side of the mountain near Emerald Lake.

The search was to resume this morning, according Gilbert, who added, "We're holding high hopes at this time."

The man, whose name was not released, was reported missing by his friend, Jeff Frederick, 32, of Salt Lake City, who was able to ride out the avalanche and contact police dispatchers by cellular phone.

Frederick's sister, Tamara Love, said she was told her brother got caught in some trees and was able to stop himself in the slide.

Gilbert said Frederick searched the area but could not find his friend, who Love said was a man named Marshal. The men were neighbors and members of the same LDS ward, she said.

"We're just so sick about not knowing of Marshal," Love said.

Low-lying clouds and snow prevented the search and rescue team from reaching the site, Gilbert said. At 4:30 p.m., when conditions cleared, a Department of Public Safety helicopter spotted Frederick and was able to land near him, about 1,000 feet below the slide.

Frederick, who was uninjured, was flown to the Aspen Grove trailhead several miles from Emerald Lake. Love said her brother had returned home by 9 p.m. and met with his church bishop.

Frederick liked to go to the mountains almost every weekend, Love said.

Gilbert described Frederick and the other man as fairly competent backcountry adventurers, but noted they did not carry avalanche beacons on this trip. The sergeant said it took the pair about 5 1/2 hours to reach the area near where the avalanche occurred.

Investigators have not determined what triggered the avalanche, but Utah Avalanche Center director Bruce Tremper said about 92 percent of slides are caused by the victim or his party.

Tremper said the avalanche danger near Emerald Lake was "considerable" Saturday - meaning natural avalanches are possible and human-triggered avalanches are probable - and was expected to reach "high" - when both types are likely - by today. The forecast for Saturday night was expected to be warm, around 32-degrees, but windy and snowy all night.

The search for the missing snowshoer was in the same general area where three friends were killed in an avalanche Dec. 26, 2003.

Rod Newberry, 20, of Pleasant Grove; Adam Merz, 18; and Mike Hebert, 19, both of Orem, were among a group of five friends swept down as they snowboarded in the Roberts Horn Chute of Aspen Grove, about 2 1/2 miles north of the Sundance Ski Resort. There have been no avalanche deaths this year in Utah. But last year eight people were killed in the state, making it one of the deadliest avalanche seasons since records have been kept.

---

Reporter Lisa Rosetta contributed to this story

Steps to avoid an avalanche

The USDA Forest Service Utah Avalanche Center Web site at http://www.avalanche.org/~uac/ contains a wealth of information about avalanches. Here are some tips culled from that site:

l Venture onto slopes one at a time, leaving someone in a safe spot to do the rescue. Split large groups and stay in visual and voice

contact.

l Plan an escape route. What will you do if you trigger an avalanche?

l Use slope cuts. Keep up your speed and cut across the starting zone, so that if you do trigger an avalanche, momentum can carry you off the moving slab into safer terrain. Watch for cornices and give them a wide berth. Never walk to the edge of a drop-off without first checking it out.

l Look for alternatives: Follow ridges, thick trees and slopes with safer consequences. You can almost always go back the way you

came.

l If there's no other choice, go underground. You can almost always weather a bad storm or bad avalanche conditions by digging a snow cave in a protected area.

Coping with an avalanche

l If you trigger an avalanche, try to get off the slab. If you are on skis or a snowboard, try heading straight downhill to build speed, then angle off to the side of the moving slab. If you're close enough to the crown, you can try running uphill to get off the slab, or running off to the side. If you're ascending when the avalanche breaks, you can't do much.

l If you're on a snowmobile, you have the advantage of power. Grab some throttle and if you're headed uphill, continue uphill. If you're headed across the slope, continue to the side to safe snow. If you're headed downhill, your only hope is to try to outrun it.

l If you can't escape the slab, try grabbing a tree.

l If you can't escape the slab or grab a tree, swim hard. A human body is about three times more dense than avalanche debris and tends to sink unless it's swimming hard.

l As the avalanche finally slows and just before it comes to rest, try to clear an air space in front of your mouth. This helps delay carbon dioxide buildup, which allows you to live longer under the snow.

l Push a hand upward. Visual clues allow your friends to find you faster. You may not know which way is up, but take your best guess.

l After the avalanche comes to a stop, the debris will instantly set up like concrete. Unless you are very near the surface or have a hand sticking up out of the snow, it's almost impossible to dig yourself out of an avalanche.

Steps to avoid an avalanche

The USDA Forest Service Utah Avalanche Center Web site at http://www.avalanche.org/~uac/ contains a wealth of information about avalanches. Here are some tips culled from that site:

Venture onto slopes one at a time, leaving someone in a safe spot to do the rescue. Split large groups and stay in visual and voice

contact.

Plan an escape route. What will you do if you trigger an avalanche?

Use slope cuts. Keep up your speed and cut across the starting zone, so that if you do trigger an avalanche, momentum can carry you off the moving slab into safer terrain. Watch for cornices and give them a wide berth. Never walk to the edge of a drop-off without first checking it out.

Look for alternatives: Follow ridges, thick trees and slopes with safer consequences. You can almost always go back the way you

came.

If there's no other choice, go underground. You can almost always weather a bad storm or bad avalanche conditions by digging a snow cave in a protected area.

Coping with an avalanche

If you trigger an avalanche, try to get off the slab. If you are on skis or a snowboard, try heading straight downhill to build speed, then angle off to the side of the moving slab. If you're close enough to the crown, you can try running uphill to get off the slab, or running off to the side. If you're ascending when the avalanche breaks, you can't do much.

If you're on a snowmobile, you have the advantage of power. Grab some throttle and if you're headed uphill, continue uphill. If you're headed across the slope, continue to the side to safe snow. If you're headed downhill, your only hope is to try to outrun it.

If you can't escape the slab, try grabbing a tree.

If you can't escape the slab or grab a tree, swim hard. A human body is about three times more dense than avalanche debris and tends to sink unless it's swimming hard.

As the avalanche finally slows and just before it comes to rest, try to clear an air space in front of your mouth. This helps delay carbon dioxide buildup, which allows you to live longer under the snow.

Push a hand upward. Visual clues allow your friends to find you faster. You may not know which way is up, but take your best guess.

After the avalanche comes to a stop, the debris will instantly set up like concrete. Unless you are very near the surface or have a hand sticking up out of the snow, it's almost impossible to dig yourself out of an avalanche.

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