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SALT LAKE CITY -- Getting caught in an avalanche is a situation no skier or snowmobiler wants to encounter. Over the weekend, a skier was swept away in one and survived. But every year, the mountains claim the lives of snow enthusiasts.
If anyone knows how to survive an avalanche, it's Ben Wheeler. He's a professional skier for Alta and Snowbird and has come face to face with two dangerous slides.
8 out of 10 avalanches occur after a storm when new snow is added to existing snow cover on a slope.
"You can't run away. You can't do anything," Wheeler says. "[I] looked up the slope; there were cracks all around me, and it started liquidating on top of me."
The first slide happened in 1999 at Alta. Two brothers were caught but survived. The other was in the spring of 2005, and Wheeler thought he might not make it out alive.
"It was a moment for me -- being buried completely, being stuck -- and the second that I thought that I was going to die, I kicked in and fought," Wheeler recalls.
He was able to dig himself out, but one of his friend's was trapped. Wheeler says the only reason he and his friends were able to make it off the mountain was because of their training.
"The more prepared you are, the more calm you're going to stay in that situation," Wheeler says.
Snowbird is holding an avalanche summit; a two-day training for outdoor enthusiasts geared at preparing them for the backcountry. Students will be taught how to use beacons and probes and what to do if they're caught in an emergency on the mountain, which forecasters say is possible.
"Right now, the avalanche danger is considerable; and that means that human-triggered avalanches are still likely," says Wheeler.