SALT LAKE CITY - A trio of snowmobilers in Wasatch County are lucky to be alive Friday after finding themselves trapped in a massive winter storm overnight.
As the snow came in and day shifted to night Thursday, the situation quickly became dangerous. After hours of being trapped in the snow, enduring bitterly cold temperatures, and early signs of frostbite, the men say it was a miracle they were able to make it out.
Kory Boyd, Randall Hild, and Aage Giessing were snowmobiling in Wasatch County when the storm approached. They quickly realized they needed to get moving.
"We need to get out of here because we could get into a situation that could be life threatening," said Giessing.
Hild say they were caught off guard. They'd somehow gotten turned around - lost in the back country.
"We're losing energy really quick," he said. "Then you see the storm come in and we really had no idea. I never knew where we were."
Landmarks faded into the snow, which faded into the darkness. The men say it was difficult to stay composed.
Should you become caught outside in a violent winter storm or blizzard...
- If there is a building or other structure nearby (less than a quarter of a mile away), try to seek shelter there. If there is no shelter nearby, Stay Put.
- If you try to feel your way back to your car or to a nearby house you once saw in the distance, you could become easily disoriented by the blinding snow.
- Blowing and falling snow will quickly cover your tracks, making backtracking to your original location nearly impossible. This will also make it harder for rescuers to find you once the storm has passed.
- Build a lean-to or hollow out a snow cave to shield yourself from the wind.
- Stay dry and cover all exposed parts of the body.
- Start a fire for heat and to attract attention.
- Place rocks around the fire to absorb and reflect heat.
- Do not eat snow: It will lower your body temperature. Melt it first.
"I was a little panicked thinking, this is really happening to us," said Boyd.
Eventually they found shelter under some trees and built a fire. There was no cell phone service and little food. But the men did have something that would ultimately save their lives - a satellite tracker, thrown into a pack at the last minute.
"I wasn't planning to bring it," said Hild. "I actually kind of forgot that I had it. Hadn't set it up, then yesterday morning, logged in, set up the account on it and threw it in my bag."
He activated it and the three men waited. They kept foraging for firewood, trying to stay warm.
"Throughout the night, we just kept doing that," said Hild. "Somebody would rest, somebody would walk."
A few hours later, the men heard the faint sound of snowmobiles in the distance. It was the Wasatch County Search and Rescue Team. They had received the distress call and come to the rescue.
Boyd, Hild, and Giessing would make it home.
"(We're) just thankful," said Boyd. "They saved our lives. Who goes out at nighttime in a blizzard in crazy terrain and puts their own lives on the line? It was awesome."
Eight men from the search and rescue team guided the men home. They had ventured 37 miles off course.
Rescuers say there's no indication the men would have made it off the mountain on their own in the extreme weather.