2 skiers confirmed dead in avalanche; weather delays recovery effort until Friday

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LITTLE COTTONWOOD CANYON — Two of three skiers caught in an avalanche Thursday are dead, the Salt Lake County Sheriff's Office confirmed.

"Unfortunately, today, I have to tell you it's a recovery instead of a rescue," Salt Lake County Sheriff Rosie Rivera said Thursday afternoon.

Because of poor weather conditions, Rivera said crews were unable to recover the bodies of the two men buried under the snow. They will make another attempt Friday morning.

"The weather changed so quickly ... it's just unsafe, especially with the avalanche situation," she said.

The announcement comes after search and rescue crews were able to rescue one skier off the mountain earlier in the day and spent most of Thursday afternoon trying to locate the others.

Two men, ages 23 and 32, were confirmed to be deceased, Rivera announced. One of the victims is from Utah and the other is from outside of the state. The confirmation was made after search crews were able to finally see the victims, the sheriff said.

The three men are good friends and were experienced backcountry skiers, the sheriff's office reported.

"Reports indicate they were well prepared for the journey they set out on today," Rivera said.

They are believed to have started hiking up to the Lone Peak Summit area early Thursday, taking about five hours to get to their destination in the Big Willow area in Lone Peak Canyon, near Lone Peak Summit, just off Little Cottonwood Canyon.

First responders were first notified of the avalanche about 10:15 a.m. Rivera says she believes the man who was rescued made the initial call. That man was "able to dig himself out," she said. Rescue crews were able to use a hoist from a helicopter to get him off the mountain about noon. That man was taken to a local hospital. The sheriff says he is in "fair" condition. She says detectives went to the hospital to talk to him, in an attempt to get more information about his friends.

By 2:30 p.m. Rivera said it was still unsafe for rescuers to enter the avalanche area and mitigation work still needed to be done to make the area safe before ground crews could attempt to reach the other two skiers.

"The conditions are really bad," she said.

The sheriff said the avalanche area is "quite a ways back" on the mountain and "it is going to take some time" to reach the remaining skiers.

By about 3:40 p.m., however, just as the weather started to change, Rivera announced the two missing skiers had been spotted and were confirmed to be dead. Because their families are from out of state, the sheriff said their names would not be immediately released.

"This is a reminder that Mother Nature can be unpredictable and we encourage everyone to be mindful of the dangers of the late snowpack and spring runoff," Rivera said.


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Pat Reavy is a longtime police and courts reporter. He joined the KSL.com team in 2021, after many years of reporting at the Deseret News and KSL NewsRadio before that.


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