SUMMIT COUNTY, Utah — Avalanche bombing experts work to ensure the safety of rescuers working on the ground. And on Sunday search and rescue crews worked on an avalanche recovery mission in Summit County.
The Utah Avalanche Center, Sheriff’s Office and Park City Mountain Resort Ski Patrol worked with Utah Department of Public Safety. Together they conducted avalanche mitigation. This was to help rescuers recover the skier who was buried the day before.
“We arrive and we serve the search and rescue or the sheriff’s office in that area. So if they say we’re going to mitigate, then we just follow their lead.” So said Sgt. Wyatt Weber, a tactical flight officer with the Utah Department of Public Safety Aero Bureau. “Obviously, the snow safety experts that know these avalanches from front to back. Whatever they suggest we just try to help them and assist them and do it as safely as possible with the tool.”
Utah DPS used explosive charges from Park City Ski Patrol for avalanche bombing the unstable snow above the area. The avalanche mitigation allowed rescuers to access the area with minimized risk of further avalanches.
“You talk to the Park City Ski Patrol and they’ll tell you [Square Top is] one of their scariest areas up there for avalanche potential. It always gives them sleepless nights,” said Utah DPS Aero Bureau pilot Bret Hutchings.
Hutchings piloted the helicopter on Sunday as members of the team deployed the explosives.
“Avalanche bombing requires the pilot and a crew of three comprised out of the various ski resort areas. You have a controller and a bomber and a prepper,” he said.
Two Avalanches by lift skiers at Park City Mountain Resort
There have been two deadly avalanches in Utah this winter. Both have taken place just outside of Park City Mountain Resort boundaries. In both cases the avalanche victims accessed the backcountry from the resort boundary area.
“Park City Mountain places the highest value on the safety of our guests and employees. Within the ski area boundaries, Ski Patrol performs avalanche mitigation work and provides emergency response. Park City Mountain does not prohibit public access to U.S. Forest Service lands outside the ski area boundary. Guests that access the backcountry from Park City Mountain must do so from designated backcountry gates that provide warnings and information about the inherent risks of backcountry travel. Park City Mountain does not manage the lands or the inherent hazards that exist outside its ski area boundary. Guests who access backcountry terrain do so at their own risk and are responsible for their safety. Guests leaving the Resort boundaries should be experienced and knowledgeable about backcountry travel, and be prepared with the appropriate gear and safety equipment.” – Jessica Miller, Park City Mountain Resort