Friday started as a perfect winter day. About a foot of new snow fell overnight. In the morning the sky cleared. Then by the end of the day the Sierra Avalanche Center had received many avalanche reports. Some happened naturally but many were caused by skiers and snowboarders.
In the morning the Sierra Avalanche Center posted its forecast. The center stated the obvious - that storm slabs in the new snow were a big concern. They rated the avalanche danger as “considerable,” meaning that skiers and snowboarders were likely to trigger avalanches.
The Sierra Avalanche Center works to prevent accidents by issuing daily forecasts. The U.S. Forest Service hires three full-time avalanche forecasters who backcountry ski and then write reports. The Sierra Avalanche Center fundraises on behalf of the U.S. Forest Service to cover much of the payroll and related expenses. There are also three part-time paid observers who go skiing to check on conditions.
Two avalanche defendants, snowboarders, are facing charges and a $168,000 fine for an avalanche that threatened I-70. A judge just dismissed their motion to dismiss video of the avalanche they gave to Colorado Avalanche Information Center.
A Summit County Court judge dismissed a motion to suppress a GoPro video of the avalanche. Evan Hannibal and Tyler DeWitt had given the video to the Colorado Avalanche Information Center (CAIC).
The video is evidence in the Summit County District Attorney’s case against Hannibal and DeWitt. They are charged with reckless endangerment and could face a $168,000 fine. These are the first criminal charges ever filed against skiers involved in an avalanche in Colorado.
An elk survived an avalanche after being rescued by a nearby observer.
Jesse Dahlberg was watching railroad avalanche control crews use explosives to start relatively small avalanches near Field British Columbia. He noticed a lone elk was in the path of one of the avalanches.
“I didn’t know how big the avalanche was going to be so I was hoping for the best. When I saw it, I thought there’s no way that elk is going to survive.” Dahlberg said.
The Park City Mountain Canyons Ski Patrol closed off its access to the backcountry adjacent to the resort. The unusual step was taken after a couple of recent deadly slides amid high avalanche danger. Prior to a couple of recent fatal avalanches there had been numerous others in past years as well.
A 31-year-old man died after being buried in an avalanche while skiing in the adjacent backcountry. He accessed it via special gates at Park City Mountain. More recently, a U of U helicopter responded to rescue two skiers. One was buried in an avalanche and died. They also accessed the backcountry via Park City Mountain.
Two people caught in a Swiss avalanche were rescued after their dogs barked for help. The barking attracted the attention of nearby snowshoers who were able to dig them out.
“The dogs attracted the attention of a group of snowshoers who were some distance away in the same valley but had not witnessed the avalanche.”
About 15-20 minutes after the avalanche, the group was at the scene, where one of the avalanche victims’ hands was visible; the other person was buried entirely, Rega said. Both were dug out slightly injured and with mild hypothermia. Rega then flew them by helicopter to hospital.