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Lost Snowmobiler Spends Frigid Night Outdoors

Lost Snowmobiler Spends Frigid Night Outdoors

Posted - Jan. 4, 2004 at 5:23 p.m.



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Jill Atwood reportingDominic Valente/lost snowmobiler: "I went down a hill and I couldn't find the way back up. So I decided to go down a different way, and I got stuck in a creek bed."

Same story, different day. A snowmobiler loses his way in white-out conditions, forcing him to spend the night in the frigid outdoors, this time near Heber City.

This morning, music to Dominic Valente's ears: The sound of a medical helicopter.

Valente had the smarts and the equipment to dig a snowcave last night. He even managed to get a few hours sleep.

The beautiful snow covered mountains and valleys are hard to resist if you're a thrill seeker with a means to explore. But a day like today can quickly turn into a night like this.

John Wetsel/Wasatch County Search & Rescue: "There was apparently a white out, real bad conditions, lots of new snow."

Saturday night, a familiar sight just east of Heber: Rescue crews blazing a trail in the dark hoping for the best.

"The snow conditions are such that there is literally no bottom once you break through a certain amount of crust. You could be standing in chest deep snow before you know it."

But Dominic Valente was able to use that amount of snow to his advantage.

Dominic Valente/Lost Snowmobiler: "I just dug myself a cave there, built a wall up in front of me so the wind wouldn't come in, and I was fine."

Linda Valente/Dominic's Mom: "Thank God he dug himself a hole and kept warm. He said, 'Mom I bet I slept better than you did last night.' And I said, 'Yeah, right.'"

With conditions so extreme, experts say know your ability and know the terrain. How well you prepare may be the key to keeping yourself alive.

Joel Kohler/Wasatch County Search & Rescue: "When you're by yourself and you are on one of these snowmobiles-- and they say they are light weight, but when you're in a canyon or you're in a creek or in the middle of a field and you are by yourself, you better plan on staying because you will not get that machine out."

And one more quick tip-- having a cell phone is not enough. A lot of times you won't have service in the mountains. In addition to that cell phone, of course have your basic survival kit.

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