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Avalanche control canceled when skiers ignore warnings

By Sam Penrod | Posted - Dec. 24, 2010 at 2:44 p.m.



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SALT LAKE CITY — Localized avalanche control planned for Friday in Big Cottonwood Canyon had to be postponed because backcountry skiers ignored warning signs.

While the skiers weren't in the exact area of Cardiff Fork and Kessler Peak, where the helicopter planned to do the control, they were close enough that it couldn't be carried out, authorities said.

"It makes it dangerous for them, because what can happen is when we're bombing one side of the mountain, a slide could propagate around the ridge and affect them," said Matt McKee, avalanche forecaster for the Utah Department of Transportation. "So even though we weren't doing control directly above their position, we can't take that risk if they are anywhere in the area."

Avalanche control canceled when skiers ignore warnings

Warning signs are placed at trailheads where skiers can access the areas where avalanche control is planned. One of those signs appeared to have been stolen Friday.

UDOT tries to do work in between storms to keep the danger down, and it helps keep frequent and longer closures of the canyon road to a minimum.

"If we were in the middle of the storm, we'd have to keep the whole road closed until we could do that control work," McKee said. "In the future, if we can't guarantee that these areas are clear of skiers, we are going to have to close the road first thing in the morning to carry out the control work, but we don't want to have to do that."

People planning on skiing the backcountry can check the UDOT avalanche control website from home before they leave to learn about possible avalanche control work in the canyons.

E-mail: spenrod@ksl.com

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Sam Penrod

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