News / Utah / 

Recent avalanches don't deter backcountry skiers

By Pat Reavy and Andrew Adams | Posted - Feb. 24, 2012 at 11:59 p.m.


4 photos

This archived news story is available only for your personal, non-commercial use. Information in the story may be outdated or superseded by additional information. Reading or replaying the story in its archived form does not constitute a republication of the story.

HUNTSVILLE — Search and rescue crews in Rich County rescued a snowmobiler who was injured in an avalanche Friday.

The slide happened just after 11 a.m. near Whiskey Hill in the Monte Cristo area. The man broke his leg, but is expected to be OK.

The avalanche comes less than 24 hours after a snowboarder was killed in Dutch Draw, an area just outside the boundaries of The Canyons Ski Resort. Timothy Robert Baker, 24, was killed while snowboarding in an out-of- bounds area off the Ninety Nine 90 Ski Lift.

Report reveals more details about deadly avalanche

The area is roped off from the rest of the resort and several signs are posted, including one with a skull and crossbones, warning skiers not to go into the backcountry area.

Baker was with two friends who were on snowboards.


"They yelled again from the ridge that he should get off the slope. They ran into the two skiers at the bottom and had some words with them about what they were doing was dangerous."

Another group of experienced skiers who were in the same area but further to the south in smoother terrain, yelled at the group to get away from the area because it was too steep, according to a report from the Utah Avalanche Center.

As the trio started down the slope, the other group noted that "they all appeared to be poor skiers and riders and were having trouble negotiating the steep terrain," the report states.

The two skiers made it to the bottom, but the snowboarder was behind and "flailing down the slope," according to the witnesses.

The snowboarder unintentionally triggered the avalanche and was buried under about 3 ½ feet of debris. None of the three in the group were equipped with beacons or rescue gear, according to the avalanche report. Baker was buried for an estimated 40 minutes before rescuers could find him and dig him out.

Risks outweighed by rewards, backcountry skier says

Despite the dangers and warning signs posted in the area, frequent backcountry skiers and snowboarders say the risks are far outweighed by the rewards.

Despite the dangers and warning signs posted in the area, frequent backcountry skiers and snowboarders like Mason Diedrich say the risks 
are far outweighed by the rewards.
Despite the dangers and warning signs posted in the area, frequent backcountry skiers and snowboarders like Mason Diedrich say the risks are far outweighed by the rewards.

"If you go even a few days after a storm in the backcountry, you can still find protected snow — stuff that's been in the trees that hasn't been skied — and it's nice," said Mason Diedrich, backcountry skier.

Diedrich and others say dodging trees, natural moguls and cutting through the virgin powder is being a part of nature in its full majesty.

In an average season, Diedrich goes backcountry skiing 20 to 25 times.

"It's one of those places where, if you're going to go, you really have to stop and think about the consequences," he said.

For him, the backcountry isn't about being a daredevil: The avalanche risk Friday actually scared Diedrich away from the slopes. He says it's about being smart — skiing with a beacon, skiing in groups, and going down one at a time.

"There's a risk doing just about any recreational activity," Diedrich said. Those risks, he says, simply lead to careful decision making — and he chalks the accidents up to bad luck.

Dutch Draw has deadly avalanche history

Thursday's deadly avalanche occurred in the same area where a massive slide killed 27-year-old Shane Maixner, of Sandpoint, Idaho, in 2005.

The accident marked the fourth avalanche fatality in Utah since November and third in the past month.

The avalanche danger in Utah was listed as "considerable" to "high" for most of the state by the Utah Avalanche Center on Friday.

More details about the Rich County avalanche will be posted as they become available.

Photos

Related Stories

Pat Reavy
    Andrew Adams

      SIGN UP FOR THE KSL.COM NEWSLETTER

      Catch up on the top news and features from KSL.com, sent weekly.
      By subscribing, you acknowledge and agree to KSL.com's Terms of Use and Privacy Policy.

      KSL Weather Forecast