MONTE CRISTO — A snowmobiler caught in an avalanche Friday, at the start of what forecasters expect to be a dangerous weekend, escaped with just an injured leg.
Though avalanches caused by skiers, snowboarders or snowmobilers have been sparse in Northern Utah, high winds and heavy snow settling on top of weak snow this week led to a slide.
The unidentified man was with three other snowmobilers on Whiskey Hill, just outside of the Monte Cristo trailhead on Highway 39, when he triggered an avalanche halfway up a steep slope around 11 a.m., said Craig Gordon of the Utah Avalanche Center.
The avalanche buried him almost completely, with just the visor of his helmet sticking out of the snow, Gordon said.
“That’s how they found him. It was a super fortunate outcome that part of his gear was sticking out,” he said. The group did not have any rescue beacons.
Had he been completely buried, the rescuers would have had a much harder time finding him, Gordon said.
His leg was injured and he was flown to an area hospital for treatment. Gordon did not know the extent of the man’s injuries or which hospital he went to for treatment.
The incident came just a day after 24-year-old Timothy Robert Baker died in an avalanche in Dutch Draw, just outside Canyons Ski Resort in Park City. He triggered that avalanche outside the boundaries of the ski resort.
Statewide, there have been 16 avalanches that have completely buried, injured or killed someone since January 2011, though the one Friday morning was the first since then in the Ogden area, according to the Utah Avalanche Center.
The center put out a yellow-coded advisory for today, signaling a considerable chance for avalanches. The same advisory was in place on Friday when the accident happened.
Very strong winds in a Wednesday night snowstorm laid down “a very cohesive, strong slab of snow” on top of “weak, sugary snow, which is a bad combination,” Gordon said.
“It’s kind of like all of the ingredients came together in the past couple days for this to happen,” Gordon said.
The National Weather Service expects more snowfall in the Ogden Valley today, accompanied by 21 to 24 mph winds. Another snowstorm moves in Monday, with a chance of more snow lingering through Thursday night.
The NWS predicts the high temperatures through the coming week to stay around 40 and the upper 30s, with lows ranging from 16 to 23 degrees.
Gordon advises anyone planning on exploring the backcountry to stick to low-angle slopes.
BEFORE YOU GO:
Avalanche conditions constantly change, so people should check the Utah Avalanche Center website or check in with their phone service before heading out to backcountry areas. The center’s website is utahavalanchecenter.org and the phone number for the advisory hotline is 1-888-999-4019.