DRAPER — Four skiers are now safe after being swept by an avalanche south of the Pfeifferhorn Sunday.
Utah County Sheriff's Sgt. Spencer Cannon confirmed at least two experienced leg injuries, one had a broken leg and another had a broken ankle, but no one was completely buried. His office received initial reports of the incident just after 11 a.m. The skiers were all men in their mid-20s and experienced backcountry skiers.
"They said there wasn't very much, maybe 20 or 30 feet above them that came down, but it was enough to catch them up and send them over some edges and fortunately they didn't get buried," said Cannon.
It took rescue crews seven hours to reach the skiers who were partially buried by the avalanche. Utah County search and rescue crews responded with assistance from the Department of Public Safety and Intermountain Life Flight helicopters and Lone Peak Fire District.
Preliminary information: Avalanche accident near Pfeifferhorn Peak. 3-4 people involved. Partial burials, potential injuries.— UtahAvalancheCenter (@UACwasatch) March 14, 2021
Utah and Salt Lake County search and rescue teams are responding - as well as Lifeflight and DPS.
"Oftentimes, in situations like this, the air assets are able to get to the location," Cannon said. "If they can find a place where they can safely lower down, then they may be able to get the people involved out before teams get there."
Officials said it would've taken the skiers more than eight hours to hike down the mountain. The option to use a helicopter in the rescue was a risky one, as there was still an avalanche risk in the area along with high winds. After multiple attempts, crews were able to reunite the skiers with loved ones one by one.
"What looked like it could turn into a long protracted operation maybe even going into the morning hours, we had some good fortune here in getting a break in the weather," said Cannon. "The winds slowed down, the clouds lifted and they were able to get down there."
Once off the mountain one of the skiers was taken to the hospital in an ambulance and another in a private vehicle.
Utah is experiencing a particularly dangerous avalanche season, and six people have died in local avalanches since the beginning of the year.
"They're very fortunate to get out as relatively unscathed as they did."
Contributing: Tania Dean, KSL TV