Avalanche Dangers Claim Even the Most Experienced Skier

Avalanche Dangers Claim Even the Most Experienced Skier

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News Specialist Jed Boal reportingThe weekend avalanche that killed an experienced backcountry skier above Millcreek Canyon highlights just how dangerous snow conditions are this winter.

Thin, unstable snow leads to more slides.

During a typical avalanche season from November through April, there are around 100 human triggered avalanches in the Wasatch Range.

This year? Already more than 90 slides, and the season is only half over.

"It was a very nasty place and a very dangerous avalanche."

Bruce Tremper, the director of the Forest Service Avalanche Center, went up to Gobbler's Knob yesterday to get a closer look at the site of the avalanche that killed Alan Davis.

Davis was with four other skiers on this ridge at more than 10,000 feet when it broke loose. The slab was a foot deep and 100 feet wide at the top.

"So it was a tremendous volume of snow that flushed down this gully, 1,600 vertical feet, so it carried the victim a long way down the gully," Tremper says.

In years like this with little snow, there are more avalanches. Thin snow means weak snow. Any rain or snow on top like we've had recently leads to slides.

Davis and the others were experienced and prepared. They just happened to find a dangerous spot.

"This is exactly the worst kind of winter we could have where we have long periods of dry weather with snowstorms on top of it which make those weak layers unstable," Tremper says.

Alan Davis had years of experience in the Wasatch Range. His sister says he'd hiked every canyon. He volunteered for Friends of the Utah Avalanche Center, and led tours into the backcountry.

Avalanche danger remains considerable, and there is potential for a slide through the rest of the season.

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